TOKYO — Mitsubishi Motors Corp. is locking arms with Japanese ally Nissan Motor Co. against any plan to fold the Japanese duo into a holding company with their global alliance partner Renault.
Mitsubishi CEO Osamu Masuko said the paramount priority for the group should be independence and mutual respect, and maintaining that balance would be difficult under a holding party.
"I don't even consider it as one of the options," the Mitsubishi chief said Feb. 1 in Tokyo as the automaker reported its quarterly earnings. "I think it would be difficult to have management on an equal footing under such a structure."
Masuko's sentiments echo comments from Nissan, which took a controlling stake in Mitsubishi in 2016 under the direction of Nissan's then-leader, Carlos Ghosn, to bring the smaller automaker into the Renault-led Franco-Japanese alliance.
Masuko's remarks came in reaction to comments by Ghosn last week. From the Tokyo jail where he has been held since Nov. 19, Ghosn said he had been planning to merge Mitsubishi, Nissan and Renault in a way that ensured "autonomy under one holding company."
Ghosn told Japan's Nikkei newspaper that he had discussed that plan with Hiroto Saikawa, his successor as Nissan CEO, in September and that it spurred a backlash against Ghosn.
Two months later, Tokyo police arrested Ghosn inside his plane at Tokyo's Haneda airport and charged him with financial misconduct at Nissan. Ghosn said the prosecution was part of plot to remove him and block the deeper corporate tie-up.
Masuko said he hadn't directly heard about any plan for a holding company.
"Saikawa personally heard about it, but I wasn't told about the idea of a holding company myself," Masuko said last week. "I didn't hear about it at all, and thus haven't given any consideration to it."
He seemed skeptical that the idea would work.
"I need to consider if that would be acceptable to our employees," he said. "I wonder if it would be possible to ensure a spirit of equal partnership and management on an equal footing."