French president Emmanuel Macron will discuss the Renault-Nissan alliance’s future with Japan’s prime minister at the G20 summit in Argentina, seeking to defuse a brewing diplomatic row over the balance of power inside the partnership.
The car alliance is facing the biggest test of its 19-year existence after the ousting of Nissan Motor chairman Carlos Ghosn, who was arrested last week for suspected financial misconduct.
Tokyo authorities approved the 10-day extension maximum of Mr Ghosn’s detention.
Prosecutors have to file charges against Mr Ghosn, 64, by December 10 or arrest him on suspicion of fresh crimes to keep him in custody.
Mr Ghosn’s detention in Tokyo has left the Franco-Japanese car alliance without a leader and an advocate for the French government, which has a 15% stake in Renault and which has said it wants to retain the capital structure for the alliance.
Renault controls Nissan through its 43% stake, while Nissan holds a non-voting 15% stake in its partner.
An official in the French presidency said Mr Macron would discuss the alliance with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe but gave no further details.
Meeting in Paris last week, Japanese industry minister Hiroshige Seko and French finance minister Bruno Le Maire reaffirmed the two countries’ support for the alliance.
A few days later, however, Mr Le Maire said on French television that he and Mr Seko agreed that keeping the alliance’s current capital structure was desirable which was an agreement the Japanese minister denied making.
The Mainichi Shimbun daily reported that Mr Seko had sent a rare letter of protest to Mr Le Maire for the remarks.
Mr Ghosn’s arrest, including for allegedly under-reporting his income, has triggered new attempts by Nissan to shake off what it considers Renault’s outsized control of it, adding to problems at Mr Macron’s Elysee.
As economy minister, Mr Macron had masterminded the French government’s surprise increase of its Renault stake in 2015, raising alarm bells inside Nissan that the Elysee was out to wield more influence over the Japanese company.
The car alliance, which also includes Japan’s Mitsubishi Motors, for its part “emphatically reiterated” its commitment to the partnership this week after executives met in Amsterdam for the first time since Mr Ghosn’s arrest.
A review of the capital structure was not discussed at the meeting, Mitsubishi Motors’ chief executive Osamu Masuko said.