If you depose a king, you’d best have a plan for what to do in the aftermath. That’s the challenge confronting Nissan Motor CEO Hiroto Saikawa after the remarkable palace coup in which chairman Carlos Ghosn was dethroned after almost two decades bestriding the global automotive industry. The man widely seen as indispensable to the collective functioning of Nissan’s alliance with Renault and Mitsubishi Motors has been detained on suspicion of breaching Japan’s financial laws. Meanwhile, Renault’s lead independent directors have pointedly stopped short of backing Saikawa’s move. Given all that, returning to the status quo doesn’t look like an option. But it’s not clear there’s any viable path forward, either. The central problem is that Nissan’s superior earnings and volumes should put it in the driving seat of the alliance — but the setup of the cross-shareholdings binding the companies together means that Renault, and ultimately the French government, won’t let go of the keys. One o...

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