Nissan Motor president and CEO Hiroto Saikawa (right) and Renault chair Jean-Dominique Senard (left) at the Nissan headquarters in Yokohama, Kanagawa prefecture.Picture: AFP/BEHROUZ MEHRI
Nissan Motor president and CEO Hiroto Saikawa (right) and Renault chair Jean-Dominique Senard (left) at the Nissan headquarters in Yokohama, Kanagawa prefecture.Picture: AFP/BEHROUZ MEHRI

Paris/Tokyo — Renault has said it welcomes a decision by partner Nissan Motor to grant a seat on its board committees to representatives of the French car maker, indicating that a dispute at the centre of the world’s largest automotive alliance is nearing a resolution.

The accord could be a step towards mending relations, which plumbed new depths after Renault chair Jean-Dominique Senard threatened to abstain from voting on a governance plan at Nissan’s annual meeting next week without more board representation. His warning came shortly after Nissan failed to support a merger between Renault and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).

Nissan will give Renault CEO Thierry Bolloré a seat on the board’s audit committee and Senard a position on the appointment committee — key positions at the heart of decision-making, people familiar with the matter said. Renault now expects to support Nissan’s resolutions during the investor meeting on June 25, said the people, asking not to be identified discussing the negotiations.

“The agreement reached on Renault’s presence in Nissan’s new governance confirms the spirit of dialogue and mutual respect that exists within the alliance,” Renault said in a statement on Thursday.

No choice

While tensions between the partners have never been higher, both sides have indicated they have little choice but to patch up their two-decade alliance. The partnership has proven one of the most successful among car makers, generating €5.7bn in savings from manufacturing, purchasing and engineering in the 2017 financial year, the companies estimate.

Yet the alliance has grown increasingly fractious since the November arrest of former leader Carlos Ghosn on accusations of financial misconduct, which he has denied.

In the aftermath, a joint audit by the two companies found transparency breaches and a lack of adequate financial controls at Renault-Nissan, the Amsterdam-based company that manages the alliance. Since then, Renault-Nissan has been shrunk, its executives re-assigned to their respective companies, and common services, such as communications and legal, appear to be dormant.

Waymo deal

The lopsided shareholding arrangement between the firms has been a long-running source of friction: Renault’s 43% stake in Nissan comes with voting rights, while Nissan’s 15% holding in Renault does not. The role of France, Renault’s most powerful shareholder, has also irked Nissan. A fear of losing power led the Japanese manufacturer to rebuff a merger approach from Renault in April.

Still, common projects continue to emerge. The three-way alliance, which includes smaller member Mitsubishi Motors, unveiled a partnership on Thursday to explore driverless services in France and Japan with Waymo the autonomous-vehicle unit of Google parent Alphabet.

Bloomberg