I have searched high and low for another story bigger for our industry than the dramatic arrest in Japan this week of Carlos Ghosn, who until last week was one of the most important people in the global automotive industry. For those who have never heard his name, he was the man who was credited with sorting out a heavily indebted Nissan and returning it to be one of the most profitable automotive manufacturers for its size. He was then responsible for tying it very closely to Renault for he is also currently Chairman and CEO. More recently Mitsubishi has joined the fold. His arrest, for alleged misconduct in Japan, has shaken the automotive world and the three manufacturers under his care.
Say what you like about the Internet, but it does this type of rumour-mongering very well. Conspiracy theories abound, was Nissan worried about ceding too much to Renault? Were the Japanese authorities worried about losing control of one of their most important manufacturers? Or has he simply been caught with his hand in the till? Nobody knows except those most closely involved, but they picture is certainly complicated, not least by the cross holdings of shares between the companies.
In the Times today they say that Renault cautioned against precipitous action, and that Nissan ignored them. It is also rumoured that as Nissan have effectively sacked their Chief Executive Renault has requested for a replacement on the board. And Nissan have turned round and said as he is still on the board there is no extra place available!
Whichever rumour you choose to believe, whichever side you take, it is a right mess for each of the manufacturers. If charges are proven in Japan, and let us not forget that Mr Ghosn is under arrest there, the newspaper reports suggest he could get up to 10 years in jail. Which certainly will not help him run Renault, where he is still very firmly employed. Renault themselves are going through a challenging time, not least with a contracting world market and a rapid move away from diesel technology in which they had become so proficient. With Nissan’s experience of electronic vehicles with the class leading Leaf, the sharing of technology and expertise would surely have benefited Renault. That looks less likely to happen now.
According to the Wall Street Journal he still has the back of the French Government in all of this. They own 15% of Renault and minister Bruno Le Maire has been quoted as saying that he has seen no evidence “justifying the accusations against Carlos Ghosn”. What a mess.
Have a great weekend, wherever you are.
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