PARIS — "I'm not going to live forever," Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn told analysts and reporters last week at Renault's annual financial results presentation, "so people are wondering what will happen when I leave. It's a logical question."
Only it turns out Ghosn's departure won't occur anytime soon, as has been widely expected.
He does now have an heir apparent, but the company's board of directors nominated Ghosn, who turns 64 on March 9, to serve another four years as CEO. With that came the recommendation that he spend that time "taking decisive steps to make the [Renault-Nissan] alliance irreversible" and "strengthen the succession plan at the head of Group Renault."
Ghosn has met nearly every challenge he faced in the last 20 years as he steered the alliance to become arguably the world's largest automaker, with more than 10.6 million vehicles sold in 2017. But his final task may be his toughest: Ensure the survival of the alliance after he is no longer around to lead it.
To do that, Ghosn is handing over Renault's day-to-day control to Thierry Bollore, 54, who is to be promoted from chief competitive officer to COO. Ghosn also is taking a 30 percent pay cut from Renault, likely removing one sticking point with the French government, which holds a 15 percent stake in the automaker.
Still, the fact that Ghosn is in charge of the alliance rarely has been in doubt. He served concurrently as CEO of Nissan and Renault for more than a decade before handing off Nissan leadership a year ago to Hiroto Saikawa. Yet he remains as chairman of the board at Nissan, at new alliance member Mitsubishi Motors Corp., at Renault and at the holding company headquartered in the Netherlands that oversees the alliance's joint activities and synergies.
Now, Ghosn will have to figure out a way to ensure a "gentle" leadership transition, as he put it, and the survival of the alliance. By his own admission, it will not be easy.
When it was suggested to him last week that delegation was not his strong point, Ghosn laughed and said, "Yes, I know, but I'm going to do my best.
"You may have noticed that I'm not spending my time micromanaging Nissan," he added. "I'm learning to do a new job."