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Nissan Examines Possibility of Breaking Away From Renault

Kae Inoue and Ania Nussbaum
Nissan Examines Possibility of Breaking Away From Renault

(Bloomberg) -- Nissan Motor Co. executives have examined the possibility of breaking away from Renault SA amid concerns that relations with the longtime French partner have turned dysfunctional after the ouster of former chief Carlos Ghosn, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Since last year, Nissan has been exploring the pros and cons of sustaining the alliance, particularly when it comes to engineering and technology sharing, according to the person, who asked not to be identified discussing confidential matters. Those studies predate Ghosn’s escape from Japan and were preliminary, so no decision has been made, the person said.

It’s unclear how feasible any separation would be given that Renault is Nissan’s biggest shareholder and the French partner has been pushing for a repair of ties.

Still, the comments illustrate the fragile state of the relationship between the Japanese and French auto giants after Ghosn, who balanced the world’s largest automotive alliance for years as head of both companies, was arrested late 2018 in Japan on allegations of financial misconduct. Ghosn’s legal odyssey took a dramatic turn recently when he fled Japan for Lebanon and became the world’s most famous fugitive.

Since Ghosn’s downfall, the two carmakers have struggled financially — their shares were the two worst performers among major automakers last year — and drifted apart at a time when the costs of electrification and autonomous driving are pressuring incumbent carmakers to team up or consolidate.

Relations between the two companies are “broken and likely beyond the point of repair,” Evercore ISI analyst Arndt Ellinghorst wrote in a note on Monday.

A representative for Nissan declined to comment. Renault declined to comment. The Financial Times reported earlier that Ghosn’s escape from Japan had spurred Nissan executives to accelerate secret contingency plans to potentially split from Renault.

The board of the Renault-Nissan alliance is scheduled to meet on Jan. 30 and the meeting could lead to announcements about joint projects, according to another person familiar with the matter.

(Updates with scheduled alliance meeting in final paragraph)

--With assistance from Reed Stevenson.

To contact the reporters on this story: Kae Inoue in Tokyo at kinoue@bloomberg.net;Ania Nussbaum in Paris at anussbaum5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Young-Sam Cho at ycho2@bloomberg.net, ;Tara Patel at tpatel2@bloomberg.net, Ville Heiskanen

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