TOKYO — When it came to teaming the talents of Renault and Nissan, convergence of key functions such as r&d, manufacturing and purchasing was long billed as Carlos Ghosn's crowning achievement.
The Ghosn approach seems truer than ever, with conventional wisdom dictating economies of scale as the key to developing costly new technology such as autonomous driving and electrification. Yet a growing faction at Nissan feels convergence is not only ineffective but in need of a revamp.
For example, the fusion of engineering under a single head last year with a direct report to Ghosn complicated planning, slowed development and created conflicts of interest, the argument goes.
The same holds for other functions, such as manufacturing.
Nissan's cooling on convergence signals another friction point with French partner Renault, as the carmakers maneuver to salvage a 20-year tie-up rattled by the sudden arrest last year of Ghosn, the visionary who hammered them together into the world's biggest auto group.
"It didn't work. Development became much more difficult," a person familiar with Nissan's thinking said of recent steps toward convergence. "The alliance needs to be fixed further."
The rethink comes amid Renault-Nissan tension over other issues, such as the appointment of Ghosn's successor as chairman of Nissan. All the while, both companies publicly reaffirm their commitment to the alliance and the benefits they derive from sharing work.
A joint 2022 midterm plan for the alliance unveiled by Ghosn aims to double the group's annual synergies, or shared cost savings, to more than $11 billion by 2022. During that span the group expects to boost global sales to 14 million vehicles that year, from 10.76 million units in 2018.
About 9 million of those vehicles will be built on four common platforms, including a new shared electric car architecture. Common powertrains will be used in about 75 percent of those vehicles, up from about a third today.
Just last month, Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa said the "mutually beneficial activities will not change in any way" adding that he thought they need to accelerate. But fast-forward to February and Saikawa himself was calling the benefits of convergence into question.
"Over the past several years, we have been working on convergence," Saikawa said of the strategy, an alliance cornerstone. "Whether convergence is the most efficient structure or not, that's where I'm still reflecting. We need to revisit it in some way."