GENEVA -- Renault's new CEO, Thierry Bollore, doesn't see a role for Carlos Ghosn at the automaker even if the fallen executive is cleared in Japan of financial misconduct.
"Look at the situation. We are in a completely new context today at Renault. We have a new chairman of the board, we have a new CEO, and now we move forward," Bollore said at the auto show here this week.
Bollore was previously Ghosn's deputy at Renault. He replaced his former boss as CEO in January when former Michelin Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard was also named Renault chairman.
Bollore was pressed by Japanese media in Geneva for an opinion on whether Nissan's move to investigate Ghosn was a conspiracy -- as many have alleged -- or justified by the facts.
"Since the beginning, we have been very clear at Renault that it's not our job to judge," he said. "We take the facts as they occur, and we will wait for the results in the future, in terms of a trial. But we have no preconceived ideas."
Bollore said he was pleased that Ghosn had been released on bail from detention in Japan where the former alliance leader is awaiting trial for alleged financial misconduct at Nissan but said the priority now is looking to the future.
"It's good news for him," Bollore said of Ghosn's bail. "But you understand that the key thing for us is to focus."
Decision-making too slow
Bollore said his goal -- like Ghosn's -- is to make the Renault-Nissan alliance "irreversible" but said there were some areas of the partnership that were not optimal.
He singled out the practice of "nemawashi," a Japanese term for the painstaking process of building consensus by sharing information up and down a company in order to eventually arrive at a decision.
"This process can be a little bit heavy and not appropriate for the speed at which we should go on the market," he said. "So this is where the evolution of structures could help our operation. But the reality is you can put in an agile way of working in any kind of organization."
Bollore, a soft-spoken Frenchman, joined Renault from tiremaker Michelin like Senard. Bollore has moved quickly to stamp his imprint on the automaker, portraying himself as a stabilizing force in a crisis that threatens the future of thousands of anxious employees.
Bollore said the level of "anxiety, of doubt, of questioning was very high" following Ghosn's arrest. "That’s why it's important that whatever the news will be — and there will be more coming to the surface — the priority is to move forward," he said.
A Renault internal audit had not found problems related to Ghosn's conduct or compensation, with the exception of the use of the Versailles palace to celebrate his wedding, Bollore said.
A joint Renault-Nissan investigation of RNBV, the Dutch corporate entity that oversees common functions across the alliance should be completed by the end of this month, he said.
Renault now has a dual leadership teams, with Bollore overseeing operations and Senard handling governance and alliance issues. Ghosn held both the CEO and chairman posts for more than a decade. "The dissociation of the chairman of the board and the CEO is a change we have to make, and are making," Bollore said.
The board of directors and the operational team are adapting the way they communicate and work together so that "everybody feels comfortable," he said.
Renault's midterm plan was intimately linked to the success of the alliance, which delivers billions in cross-company savings on purchasing and shared development costs, Bollore said.
He shied away from any talk of a merger or change in the cross-shareholdings, a sore point with Nissan, which is much larger than Renault but holds just 15 percent of the French automaker with no voting rights, while Renault holds 43 percent of Nissan.
"We need to make the alliance better and faster, to be fit and match with the competition and the overall landscape of the car industry, which is moving so fast," Bollore said.
The pace of cross manufacturing and utilization of shared platforms would pick up to reach the alliance midterm plan's goal of 10 billion euros per year in synergies by 2022, Bollore said.
"With the takeoff of new platforms, you will see more and more applications of that principle," he said, noting that the CMF-A and CMF-A Plus small-car platforms were being shared by Nissan and Renault in India, and that the new fifth-generation Clio was the first alliance vehicle to use the CMF-B platform, with compact and midsize variants to come.
"The contra examples will be very limited, such as Alpine," he said of Renault's largely hand-build specialty sports car. He said Mitsubishi, the newest alliance partner, "is just arriving in the game" and was not yet sharing technologies or development.