Renault pledges to get the Nissan alliance back on road

Renault chairman Jean-Dominique Senard is determined to get the carmaker’s alliance with Japan’s Nissan back on track next year, he said, adding other matters such as a potential tie-up with Fiat Chrysler were less of a priority.

By Matthieu Protard, Sudip Kar-Gupta, and Gilles Guillaume

Renault chairman Jean-Dominique Senard is determined to get the carmaker’s alliance with Japan’s Nissan back on track next year, he said, adding other matters such as a potential tie-up with Fiat Chrysler were less of a priority. The Renault-Nissan partnership was rocked by former alliance boss Carlos Ghosn’s arrest in Tokyo almost a year ago on financial misconduct charges, which he denies.

The two firms are still trying to repair relations, including through recent management overhauls, to focus again on combined efforts to cut costs and invest in new technologies — among the pressing issues thrown into sharp relief by a Renault profit warning last week.

“My obsession is for the alliance to take off in 2020,” Mr Senard told France Inter radio. “If, by 2020, we don’t manage to start extracting ... all the potential of this alliance, I’ll consider it to be a failure, on a personal level and by our teams.”

Mr Senard did not give further details. But he added that other matters, such as attempting to revive merger talks with Fiat Chrysler, which were abandoned in June, were secondary to the industrial projects Renault and Nissan needed to work on.

“Today, it’s not on the table,” Mr Senard said of a Fiat deal. He added that reducing Renault’s 43.3% stake in Nissan, which could help improve relations, was also not top of his list.

Nothing can ever be excluded, (but) this is not what we’re focused on.

Mr Senard was parachuted in from tyremaker Michelin in early 2019 to help steady Renault, which is 15% owned by the French state. Earlier this month, the carmaker ousted chief executive Thierry Bollore, a former protegee of Mr Ghosn known for having a strained relationship with Nissan, as it tries to wipe the slate clean with its Japanese partner.

“I discovered an alliance in worse shape than I’d imagined... this takes time to mend,” said Mr Senard.

Renault, which said last week it was reviewing some mid-term targets, is due to release more details about its third-quarter performance on Friday.

Meanwhile, Renault said it will offer its electric Kangoo van with added hydrogen fuel-cells before the end of the year and roll out the technology to another model in 2020. The move sees the French carmaker joining competitors Toyota Motor and Hyundai Motor in sticking with fuel-cell vehicles even as the industry largely backs electric cars powered by lithium-ion batteries.

The hydrogen addition will boost the driving range of Renault’s Kangoo and Master vans as much as threefold compared to electric models, allowing a refueling in five to 10 minutes, the company said. European carmakers are under pressure to roll out zero-emission cars to comply with new regulation to cut pollutants.

While many prioritise battery-electric vehicles, manufacturers like BMW have for years invested in fuel-cell cars. The long-standing technology, which emits only water vapor, has struggled with high costs, complex storage of hydrogen and a lack of infrastructure. Toyota and Hyundai both offer hydrogen-sipping light commercial vehicles.

In adding both rechargeable batteries and fuel cells to its vans, Renault follows the example of Mercedes Benz-maker Daimler, which is rolling out a fuel-cell sport utility vehicle that also features a battery to bridge patchy refueling points.

The hydrogen Kangoo ZE will be priced from €48,300 with a driving range of 370km. The technology was developed in partnership with a subsidiary of Michelin, the French tyremaker formerly led by Mr Senard.

Reuters and Bloomberg

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