Nissan pledged to put more focus on mending its troubled two-decade alliance with Renault as the Japanese carmaker’s boisterous shareholders voted to give the French partner more say over its future.
At Nissan’s rowdy annual meeting in Yokohama, bickering shareholders approved a governance structure designed to boost oversight and prevent the concentration of corporate power in one individual, seeking to address the lapses that led to the arrest of former chairman Carlos Ghosn. Renault, which owns 43% of Nissan, got a bigger representation in key board committees.
Chief executive Hiroto Saikawa, who got his position reaffirmed though he hinted at a potential exit in the future, emphasised the Renault alliance’s value and signalled that Nissan will speed up talks to strengthen it. That’s a change of stance from the past few months, when Nissan insisted that getting its own internal business in order was a top priority.
“Postponing the talks could result in speculation and undermine the alliance’s day-to-day operations and affect Nissan’s recovery efforts,” Mr Saikawa said.
The annual meeting was marked by shareholders shouting at executives and at each other, as has become the norm for Nissan in recent years. When an ex-Nissan employee used his turn to speak to praise Mr Ghosn for saving Nissan from bankruptcy, another shareholder told him to shut up.
Some also criticised Renault and its chairman, Jean-Dominique Senard, who was present at the meeting, accusing him of trying to assert control over Nissan.
Mr Ghosn’s arrest late last year fractured the carmakers’ partnership, and Nissan’s failure to support a proposed merger between Renault and Fiat Chrysler this month put more strain on the pact.
Mr Saikawa reiterated that he isn’t in favour of a merger between Nissan and Renault, and said an “imbalance” in the companies’ cross-shareholdings needs to be addressed - Nissan only owns 15% of its French partner.
“Having an alliance definitely increases our competitiveness, and the challenge is how to define the alliance,” said Mr Saikawa, who was criticised by some shareholders for his handling of Nissan since Mr Ghosn’s arrest. Some in the crowd called for his resignation.