YOKOHAMA, Japan -- Despite pledging to integrate Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA further, joint boss Carlos Ghosn says there is one key area in which he wants to decouple the two: the CEO suite.
Ghosn, who has run both automakers since 2005 and been at the helm of Nissan since 1999, said he will ramp up unifying the companies next year by focusing on a new area of operations that may lay the groundwork for a full merger one day, he said.
But when he steps down, Ghosn said, he wants each company to have its own CEO.
"It's very likely that in the future, this present system of one CEO for the two companies will not continue," Ghosn, 61, said in a media roundtable. "I think it's impossible for somebody who doesn't have very strong legitimacy on both sides."
Ghosn had the trust of Renault because he was dispatched from Paris when the French company took a controlling stake in Nissan. He then earned the trust from Nissan by leading its turnaround.
Replicating that formula will be difficult, Ghosn said. Plus, "I know how tough this job is because I'm doing it," he said. "It's not my recommendation." Ghosn also reiterated that his successor at Nissan should be a Japanese national.
Dividing alliance power between two CEOs contrasts with the unification Ghosn is pursuing elsewhere across the companies. A full merger of the French and Japanese partners might someday "make a lot sense, but certainly not today," he said.
"I don't think we're ready," he said. "We need to do much more convergence between the two companies before one day, eventually, imagining something like a merger."
He pledged to expand on previous moves to integrate work in such areas as engineering, production and purchasing. "Without any doubt you can expect a new step of convergence in 2016," Ghosn said, declining to give details.
Ghosn's remarks came days after he settled a standoff with the French government over the alliance's shareholding structure. Resolution of the dispute, Ghosn said, preserves the independence of both companies while allowing them to keep integrating operations.
"It is something that is explicitly put into the text, with consequences if it's not respected," he said. "This was a milestone that was very important to secure."