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Nissan and Renault finalised a restructuring of their relationship on Wednesday, with the Japanese carmaker’s chief executive saying the growing challenge in China had been “a wake-up call” for rebooting the troubled alliance as the industry makes a seismic shift to electric vehicles.
The two companies pledged to “put their past behind” as they completed a long-delayed deal to rebalance their capital relationship in exchange for Nissan investing up to €600mn in Renault’s new division for housing its EV and software technology.
First announced in February, the deal was sealed after months of strained negotiations as executives clashed over the terms under which they would equalise their stakeholdings in each other.
Renault will trim its 43 per cent stake in Nissan to 15 per cent, while the Japanese group will gain voting rights for its own 15 per cent holding in the French carmaker, removing one of the main sources of infighting for the 24-year-old partnership.
“This alliance has gone through a lot . . . but the past is the past. We had to debate about the future,” Nissan’s chief executive Makoto Uchida told a group of reporters.
“For me, China was a wake-up call and we also face a massive challenge in terms of rolling out electric vehicles in the US,” Uchida said.
Sales of Japanese cars have been hit hard in China because of the slow EV rollout and a price war sparked by Elon Musk’s Tesla, forcing another Nissan alliance partner Mitsubishi Motors to suspend production in the country this month.
Board members at Nissan had questioned and clashed over the benefits of it taking a maximum 15 per cent stake in Renault’s EV business Ampere, owing to concerns about sharing of the Japanese group’s intellectual property rights.
But Uchida said the Ampere investment, which comes with a board seat, would allow Nissan to accelerate its electric push in Europe and respond to regulatory challenges in the region. That would also allow the Japanese group to focus on strengthening its EV strategy in China and the US.
As part of the deal, Renault will transfer 28.4 per cent of its shares in Nissan into a French trust, where the voting rights will be “neutralised” for most decisions.
The pair have also announced several new joint manufacturing projects in India, Latin America and Europe.
“These agreements provide us with a solid base to reactivate business operations worldwide in key markets,” Renault’s chief executive Luca de Meo said. Jean-Dominique Senard, chair of the partnership, said the deal would allow the companies “to step into the next chapter of the alliance”.
The groups expect the agreements to be completed in the fourth quarter, following regulatory approval. In late June, Renault said it was likely to delay the listing of Ampere, from its original target of late 2023 to the first half of 2024.