Nissan to take stake in Renault electric vehicle unit to repair alliance

Nissan is to take a stake of up to 15% in Renault’s flagship electric vehicle unit as part of a new long-term deal designed to repair relations in the troubled 24-year alliance between the two global automotive makers.

The 15-year agreement includes seeking savings from joint projects in Europe, India and Latin America, as well as working together on electronics and battery technology.

The two companies had already announced an agreement for Renault to cut its holding in Nissan to 15% from 43%, matching the Japanese carmaker’s stake in its French partner in a move designed to create a more equal alliance.

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The imbalance has been a source of friction among Nissan executives dating back to a deal struck with Renault in 1999 to bail out the Japanese car company when it teetered on the brink of bankruptcy.

“I consider that what we have agreed is a much better set-up than what we have had in the past few years,” said the Renault chief executive, Luca De Meo. “We have now a new governance scheme that is much more straightforward, we can now operate like a normal company. [It] is about regaining some strategic agility without breaking [existing] ties and the synergies.”

Renault is to transfer 28.4% of Nissan shares into a French trust, with no voting rights in the event of most decisions made by the alliance, which will eventually be sold down over time. Nissan will have first refusal to buy shares sold by Renault.

Renault’s large stake and voting rights in Nissan has long stressed relations – the Japanese carmaker comfortably outpaced its French partner with 3.3m and 2.05m global car sales respectively last year.

The alliance faced the brink of collapse after the arrest in Japan of Carlos Ghosn, the former chairman of both companies who had been pushing for a full potential merger, on charges of concealing income in 2018.

Mitsubishi Motors, which joined the alliance as a junior partner in 2016 after Nissan took a large stake in its then struggling Japanese rival, said that it is also considering making an investment in Renault’s Ampere electric car unit, which is being prepared for a potential stock market flotation.

“We regard Ampere as an enabler for Nissan to participate in new business opportunities in Europe,” the Nissan chief executive, Makoto Uchida, said.

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