TOKYO — Mitsubishi Chairman Osamu Masuko defended his company's alliance with Nissan and Renault amid a barrage of shareholder skepticism, saying the carmaker needs the expertise and scale of its larger partners, especially as it pursues a new business strategy of "small but beautiful."
But the Mitsubishi boss also warned that the companies must work better together.
"We have come to see issues with the alliance," Masuko said last week at Mitsubishi Motors Corp.'s annual shareholder meeting. "Depending on how we manage the alliance, we might not be able to deliver the results we expect. That is the reality. So we need to strengthen ourselves."
Mitsubishi intends to coordinate more closely with Nissan on future direction, he added.
Masuko's assessment comes as Mitsubishi finds itself squeezed by an increasingly strained relationship between the alliance's big players, Nissan Motor Co. and Renault.
Carlos Ghosn had been chairman of Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi, seeming to hold together the alliance by sheer force of will. But trust and cooperation between Nissan and Renault have crumbled since Ghosn's arrest in Japan last year on allegations of financial misconduct.
The tension puts Mitsubishi in a sensitive spot. As the smallest partner, Mitsubishi needs the bigger players' technological, purchasing, manufacturing and logistical firepower.
But Mitsubishi is also more closely aligned with Nissan, because of shared roots as a Japanese company and because Nissan is its controlling shareholder with a 34 percent stake. While Renault has a controlling 43 percent holding in Nissan, it has no direct stake in Mitsubishi.