TOKYO -- Carlos Ghosn stands on the brink of making history – or not.
As CEO of both Nissan Motor and Renault, Ghosn responded to overtures from General Motors shareholder Kirk Kerkorian to consider adding GM to the Renault-Nissan alliance. GM's top management agreed to explore the idea.
Ghosn met with Asia Editor James B. Treece on Monday, Sept. 18, to discuss his views on expanding the alliance.
Kerkorian is seen in Detroit as a meddler. Do you need to distance yourself from him to win the hearts and minds of GM's middle management?
The only hearts and minds I'm trying to win are Renault's and Nissan's. Winning the hearts and minds of GM people is the responsibility of GM management.
The tone of comments from GM executives implied that they were not all that interested in the alliance. Based on what you are hearing from the teams, do you believe GM is giving this study a fair review?
The ambience and the spirit of the work are fairly good. It's open. They are working together, spending a lot of time. They really have a lot of respect for their partners, which means you have the people who are the professionals in their area. I think they are all doing a very good job.
What I don't know is: What are the conclusions?
From the conclusions, you're going to come to more serious deductions: Was it an objective thing? Was it twisted one way or the other?
Could it be twisted?
You may have different appreciations of the synergies. If you're coming from an alliance that was successful and provided many more synergies than what you were expecting, then you have a tendency to be more positive about it.
On the other side, if you have an experience of an alliance that provided no synergies or very small synergies compared to what you had expected, you have a tendency to downplay it a little bit.
GM's experiences with alliances were fairly negative. Does this tell you something about the corporate culture and how that company deals with alliances?
I'm not going to answer that question. I leave it to you to draw the conclusions.
I will tell you this. To make the alliance work between Renault and Nissan was an every-day task. This was not something where you pick a team from Renault and a team from Nissan and say: "OK, guys, how about you work together? Let's meet in two months."
No. People who are different and come from different companies will not work together naturally. So you're going to have to massage the structures and the standards and the incentives and everything to make it happen.
But then if you do this, the reward is really worth all the effort.
You may e-mail James B. Treece at [email protected]