Ghosn and his deputies, Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa and Mitsubishi CEO Osamu Masuko, tiptoed around the word "merger," pledging instead to pursue continued "convergence."
Any notion of a merger is a nonstarter among Japanese, especially for Saikawa who wants to protect Nissan's independence as Japan's No. 2 carmaker.
In May, Saikawa insisted merger talks weren't underway, but he said the three-way partnership's capital structure might be reviewed.
Ghosn, 64, is due to retire in the coming years, but he has not said when. His final act from the executive suite will be devising a plan that keeps the companies from splintering.
The partners are held together by a web of cross-holdings.
Renault holds 43.4 percent of Nissan, but it agreed to give Nissan more independence after a standoff with the French government, which, in turn, owns a 15 percent stake in Renault. Meanwhile, Nissan is the bigger company but owns just 15 percent of Renault with no voting rights. Nissan also has a controlling, 34 percent stake in Mitsubishi.
Ghosn said there are "many possible ways" to sustain the alliance, but he didn't outline specific ideas when trying to woo sometimes skeptical shareholders in Japan. After Ghosn's appeal, Japanese media began reading the tea leaves, often with conflicting takeaways.
Jiji Press reported that Ghosn had reiterated "his intention to review the capital structure" of the alliance, even though that message was not explicitly stated.
The Nikkei business daily said Ghosn was trying to tone down integration talk for "Japanese ears." That report compared conciliatory comments in Japan, where Ghosn pledged to lead each company in the interests of its shareholders, to comments in France where he apparently promised to guide the alliance in the interest of all shareholders.
Accusations weren't just leveled at the French.
One Mitsubishi shareholder, during the question-and-answer period, accused Nissan of swooping in to buy Mitsubishi at a discount when Mitsubishi's stock price slumped.
"Nissan is taking over Mitsubishi Motors," the agitated decadeslong Mitsubishi investor said. "I'm frustrated. … What's the benefit of being under the umbrella of Nissan?"
Ghosn rattled off the benefits of scale, synergies and shared innovation. Combined sales, he noted, lifted the alliance into the top tier of automakers with Toyota and Volkswagen.
He also cited the failed DaimlerChrysler-Mitsubishi alliance as an example of what not to do.
"We do not believe that companies where you have one company dominating the others is sustainable. In our industry, it doesn't work," Ghosn said. "In the cemetery of carmakers, you have plenty of companies which collapsed because they forgot this very simple fact."
Creating a hierarchy, Ghosn said, is the surest way to sabotage motivation and morale.
"The last thing we want to do is, by converging the three companies, do something where some people are demotivated because they have the impression they are going to be working for somebody else," he said. "In order to have your people motivated, they need to be proud of their brand, proud of their company, proud of their country."
Nissan shareholders seemed less distressed by the state of the alliance, perhaps because they have been living with it for almost two decades, unlike the newcomers at Mitsubishi.
Ghosn, who has held the alliance together almost by sheer force of will over that period, conceded the challenge will be extending the success for decades to come.
"We don't want the alliance to be dependent on one person or two persons," Ghosn said.
"This is where we need to work together, Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi, to find a system by which what we have today, which is working very well, can continue in the future, no matter who is leading the alliance, no matter who is leading Mitsubishi, no matter who is leading Nissan and no matter who is leading Renault," he said. "That's our question today."