PARIS — Carlos Ghosn, architect of what is now the world's largest automaker group — the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance — took steps last week to more tightly weave the three brands together on future products, parts and technologies.
Ghosn named a roster of executives from the member companies to be in charge of creating new vehicles together, coordinating their business plans and generally putting the automakers on the same page when it comes to basic operating issues such as manufacturing procedures, engineering standards, product quality, supply chain management and even aftermarket sales.
The moves brought Ghosn, 63, closer to fulfilling his pledge to strengthen the cross-ties between the automakers before he steps down as their chief visionary in a few years.
Ghosn and others have expressed frustration in the past year that, despite almost 20 years of Alliance efforts, it has been difficult to bring Renault and Nissan closer on vehicles and technologies.
The new groupwide appointments reveal a touch of outside-the-box thinking on Ghosn's part. Among them:
Executive Vice President Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi, who led the development of the new Nissan Leaf, will become executive vice president in charge of global engineering activities and product development for the group. As its single point person, Yamaguchi will be tasked with making sure the companies share technologies and avoiding duplication of effort.
Ghosn has said, for example, that going forward, the alliance will work from a single shared electric-vehicle platform.
On Yamaguchi's team, Gaspar Gascon of Renault will coordinate engineering and Nissan's Takao Asami will coordinate advanced engineering and research.
Senior Vice President Hadi Zablit, a former Renault engineering executive who more recently had been working for Boston Consulting Group in Paris, will lead business development for the Alliance.
Ogi Redzic, who joined the Alliance two years ago from Nokia's automotive business unit in Chicago, will direct connected vehicles and mobility services for the three companies.
Gerard Detourbet, a Renault engineering executive and former mathematics professor who most recently led a team to create the Alliance's shared ultrainexpensive Kwid model in India ($4,100 starting price), will take charge of breakthrough innovations for the group.
Renault strategic planning executive Jacques Verdonck will direct the Alliance's third-party partnerships, including its vehicle, engine and technology-sharing arrangements with Daimler, a deal that he negotiated.
Nissan Brazil President Francois Dossa will direct Alliance Ventures, a global investment fund created to stimulate innovative partnerships for the group.
Nils Saclier, a Renault career man who most recently was director of advanced technology for the Alliance, will now head up product planning.
Christian Vandenhende, Renault's executive vice president for quality and total customer satisfaction, will take on that role for the Alliance.
Kent O'Hara, who rose through the ranks of aftermarket sales at Nissan's U.S. arm before heading global aftermarket operations for Nissan globally, will become senior vice president for Alliance aftersales
With these and several other new appointments, Ghosn is determined to make the three-way tie-up strong enough to outlast him when he retires — an event that he has not yet pinned to a date.
"People have legitimate concerns about the durability of the Alliance," Ghosn, who is chairman of the three brands as well as CEO of Renault, said last month at Renault's 2017 financial results conference. "Will the Alliance survive me? That is really the question."
Under some pressure from the French government to ensure his smooth departure, Ghosn has stepped away from daily operational duties at Nissan and Renault to focus on ensuring the Alliance's sustainability. He was appointed to another four-year term as CEO at Renault this year — but he accepted a pay cut and named Thierry Bollore as his COO there, a job that puts Bollore in line to succeed Ghosn.
Renault holds 43.4 percent of Nissan, and Nissan has 15 percent of Renault but has no voting rights. A full merger of the two companies is considered unlikely as long as the French government holds its 15 percent stake in Renault.
Last November, France sold a 4.7 percent stake of Renault, reducing its holding from nearly 20 percent before. The administration of President Emmanuel Macron said this month that it would not sell back its remaining stake in the automaker.
Ghosn has set ambitious goals to speed up technology sharing, including increasing the use of common drivetrains to 75 percent of total volume from one third. By 2022, 9 million vehicles will share four common platforms, up from just 2 million on two platforms in 2016.
"We need to find the right legal and organizational structures to reassure the stakeholders about the durability of the Alliance," he said in February.