Ever since Las Vegas billionaire Kirk Kerkorian advocated an alliance involving General Motors, Nissan and Renault, Wall Street has been the proposal's biggest booster. After Kerkorian's June 30 disclosure to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, investors bid up GM's stock price by 9 percent.
Under scrutiny, though, the benefits of such a deal remain murky. Some analysts speculate that GM, Nissan and Renault could save money by sharing platforms, components, technology and assembly plants.
GM's abortive alliance with Fiat demonstrates that this is no slam dunk. In any case, such alliances work best when each partner has a product that the other lacks. But GM and Nissan each have a complete portfolio of vehicles, although Nissan might want to base future pickups on GM's well-regarded truck platform.
Nissan has no immediate need for additional production capacity. And if Renault were to re-enter the United States, it would be a marginal player for years to come.
So where do the big savings come from? It's not clear. A joint purchasing strategy is most effective when the partners share products. How would GM's turnaround plan fare while the company rejiggers its product lineup yet again?
This leaves us with the queasy suspicion that Kerkorian and other investors believe in the cult of personality. Can a dynamic outsider shake up GM's stodgy bureaucracy and speed up the pace of change? If GM were Carlos Ghosn's only assignment, we might endorse the idea. But Ghosn already runs Nissan and Renault. Can anyone -- even Ghosn -- run GM on a part-time basis?
GM's board of directors should give Kerkorian's proposal serious consideration. But the board should not allow itself to be buffaloed into a hasty decision.