Renault and Nissan: reboot or divorce?

Carlos Ghosn of Nissan © Getty Images

In an attempt to salvage the “fraying alliance” between Renault and Nissan, the two carmakers have opened talks on the idea of Renault reducing its 43% stake in its Japanese partner, says the Financial Times. The arrangement has been “a source of tension” for the two, especially as the latter “holds only a 15% non-voting stake in Renault”. The size of the cut is yet to be agreed – Nissan is thought to be aiming for 20%-25%, while the French carmaker is thinking 30%-35%.

About time too, say Jacky Wong and Stephen Wilmot in The Wall Street Journal. While Renault has been “reluctant” to cut its stake, such a move could help “reboot” the relationship with Nissan, which in turn would allow it to restart deal talks with Fiat Chrysler, which were vetoed by a French government “worried that Nissan wasn’t completely on board”. Also, the move “would free up capital for Renault, potentially helping to negotiate more favourable terms with Fiat Chrysler”. Indeed, Renault’s shareholders have already reacted positively – shares rose as soon as the news came out.

This isn’t a reboot of the relationship – more the first stages of a divorce, says Bloomberg’s David Fickling. Internal Nissan emails imply that Nissan’s ultimate goal is to cut Renault’s stake to around 5%-10%. This suggests the Japanese company is only interested in maintaining the “appearance of an alliance” rather than substantive ties. The “writing is on the wall” for any further integration, or any of the “ambitious activities”, such as the development of modular designs, that were pushed under former CEO Carlos Ghosn (pictured).