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Why Ghosn favors separate CEOs for Renault and Nissan

Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn thinks a single CEO for Renault and Nissan should be avoided in the future, but he sees no reason to change the automaker's cross shareholding.
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Carlos Ghosn expects it will take two people to fill his shoes when he leaves his position as CEO of both Renault and Nissan. In an interview with Automotive News Europe he said he only took the combined job of managing both companies because there was no other option at the time.

"I would not recommend to anyone else that they do the job I've been doing. Being in charge of two companies and having to run between two countries is extremely taxing on people. I had to do it because I had no choice. I was put in a position where I had to and there was a clear benefit to the alliance," the chief executive said.

Separately, Ghosn told Automotive News Europe sister publication Automotive News that he wants a Japanese national to succeed him at Nissan. "It's symbolic, and we have plenty of Japanese talent," he said.

While not completely rejecting the possibility of a single successor, he said that it is a decision for the boards and the shareholders of each company to make when the time comes. "I don't think we should just zoom in on one option, but if we can avoid it [a single appointment to both companies] I would obviously recommend it," he said.

Renault has had a controlling stake in Nissan for the past 15 years. Today the shareholding is 43.4 percent. Asked whether there might be benefits in either increasing or decreasing that holding, Ghosn said: "I don't think you can move the shareholding because I don't think there is, by definition, a better percentage than the one we have. … That doesn't mean it may not change in the future – but it would only change as part of a broader strategic plan. So for the moment, at least, it's here to stay."

Daimler stake

Ghosn also sees no reason to increase the size of Renault's and Nissan's cross-shareholding with Daimler in order to cement collaboration between the German company and the Renault-Nissan alliance. Those shareholdings, Renault and Nissan each has a 1.55 percent stake in Daimler while Daimler has 3.1 percent in both Nissan and Renault, will remain symbolic.

"What we wanted through this cross shareholding with Daimler was to give a sign, internally and externally, that this is not temporary, this is not just for the next three years.

"We wanted everybody to collaborate in good faith and for the long-term. And it achieved that objective. When we announced the cross shareholding of 3 percent everybody took very seriously what was going on and there has been a wholehearted cooperation between all the companies. So we don't need to do more," he said.

Dacia & Datsun

Ghosn also took the opportunity to clarify the differences between the Datsun and Dacia brands in relation to their respective parent companies.

"On one side, from the top down, we have Infiniti, Nissan and Datsun," he said. "On the other side we have Renault and Dacia." He emphasized that Dacia is a regional brand that is mainly focused on Europe with some presence in North Africa. "It's based on Renault's MO platform and it's sharing its models between the Dacia and Renault brands, depending on which regions they are built and sold in," he said.

On the other hand, Datsun is completely separate from Nissan and positioned as a global brand, with particular focus on entry-level segments. The difference between Datsun and Dacia was not one of vehicle size so much as pricing, he added.

However, the two low-priced brands will not compete head-on in any market. "Datsun is not going to central Europe. We announced Datsun for India, Russia, Indonesia, and South Africa. So you won't find it competing with Dacia," Ghosn said.

John Stanley contributed to this report

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