Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn is trying to calm the fears that his "cost-killer" reputation is causing at Renault.
If all goes according to Renault President Louis Schweitzer's plans, Ghosn in two years will become CEO of Renault, Nissan's parent company. Schweitzer will remain president. Speaking in Paris, Ghosn called this "a probable scenario."
At a press conference marking his selection by a French newspaper as "strategist of the year," Ghosn commented on reports that Renault officials are worried about his return.
"It is possible that some are preoccupied," he said. "That was true at Nissan. I inherited a team I had not hand-picked, yet I didn't change it."
Schweitzer sent Ghosn to Tokyo in 1999 after Renault took a controlling stake in the ailing Japanese carmaker. It now owns 44.4 percent.
"Good management is changing the way people behave rather than replacing them," Ghosn added.
Ghosn's success in turning around Nissan made him Schweitzer's natural successor. On April 23, Nissan is expected to announce a record profit for the fiscal year ending March 31.
When Schweitzer last year changed plans to retire in 2005 and said he would remain president, Renault sources said that would allow a smoother transition between Schweitzer and Ghosn and make existing staff feel more secure.
The question is what jobs will be given to 30 colleagues that Ghosn took with him to Japan.
"They are all meant to come back to Renault at the end of their assignment," a Renault spokes-man said.
There will be some openings at Renault's 25-member executive committee in future due to retirements. But this year already, Ghosn's two top aides are moving back to Europe, or closer to it.
Nissan's chief financial officer Thierry Moulonguet is due to return to Renault, where he had been controller of capital expenditure. His new title hasn't been disclosed.
Moulonguet, 52, a former civil servant at the French finance ministry trained at elite school Ecole Nationale d'Administration will step down from Nissan's board and executive committee after the company's June 19 shareholders meeting.
Meanwhile, Nissan's executive vice president in charge of planning and design, Patrick Pelata, was given the added responsibility of heading Nissan's European operations.
With his European job, Pelata, 47, will be exposed to sales and marketing issues. His job load in Tokyo has been lightened, with responsibility for product strategy and planning shifted to Ghosn with help from a new vice president, Guillaume Gerondeau. Pelata was Ghosn's schoolmate at French top engineering school Ecole Polytechnique.
Whatever the Ghosn boys return to in Europe is likely to be anti-climactic, said French supplier executive.
He said: "Their Japan experience was exceptional, a commando operation, a once-in-a-life adventure."