PARIS -- Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard promised to improve relations with partner Nissan, telling shareholders that broken trust between the companies is reparable and leaving the door open to a future tie up with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
"The priority is to restore a strong alliance," Senard said on Wednesday at Renault's annual meeting, which endorsed his January appointment to replace Carlos Ghosn, the ousted leader of the Renault-Nissan alliance.
Even though trust between the two partners had deteriorated, nothing was beyond repair, Senard said. Time, patience and effort from both Renault and Nissan will be needed, he said.
Senard, 66, faced investors for the first time since taking the helm at Renault, two months after Ghosn's arrest in Japan on charges of financial crimes.
Brought in by the French government -- Renault’s most-powerful shareholder -- to patch up relations with Nissan, Senard appears to have done the opposite. He further rocked the partnership by pushing and failing to get a merger with the Japanese automaker and then with FCA.
"I am disappointed," Senard said of the collapse of talks with FCA, adding that the plan was for a non-binding agreement to be signed last week.
Senard blamed the French government for the failure of what he called a "remarkable and exceptional" project that would have generated synergies rarely seen in the industry. "I was captivated," he said. "I don't know" whether it can be revived in the future.
The fallout from the Ghosn affair “left the alliance more damaged than what was initially apparent,” Senard told shareholders. The partnership “is making a new beginning that needs to be confirmed.”
Ghosn’s downfall on charges he denies has had profound effects on both Renault and Nissan, serving to exacerbate a climate of mutual suspicion between the carmakers and creating internal turmoil as revelations unfolded about his alleged financial transgressions. As head of Renault, Nissan and the third partner, Mitsubishi Motors, Ghosn had unusual powers that helped hold the alliance together.
At the heart of the Renault-Nissan problem is a lopsided shareholding arrangement and a 2015 agreement on governance that is open to interpretation. Renault owns 43% of the Japanese carmaker with voting rights, while Nissan has a 15% stake in Renault, stripped of votes. A 2015 accord, known as RAMA, limits the French carmaker’s influence at Nissan.