FILE PHOTO: Nissan President and Chief Executive Officer Hiroto Saikawa attends a news conference at its global headquarters building in Yokohama, Japan, December 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo
YOKOHAMA, Japan (Reuters) – Nissan Motor Co will postpone talks with French partner Renault on deepening their alliance and instead focus on its own recovery, Chief Executive Hiroto Saikawa said on Tuesday, signaling no quick-fix for the strained automaking partnership.
Speaking at Nissan’s annual general meeting in Yokohama, its first since the dramatic ouster of former Chairman Carlos Ghosn last year, Saikawa apologized for the fallout from that scandal. Ghosn’s departure has both rocked Nissan and complicated the outlook for its partnership with Renault SA.
Tuesday’s meeting comes just days after the two partners resolved a highly publicized disagreement between Saikawa and Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard over appointments to Nissan’s newly created governance committees. But large questions remain about their ability to overcome the acrimony.
“Our priority is to recover our performance, which means postponing discussions on the future of the alliance,” Saikawa told shareholders.
“It is critical to create opportunities in the future with Renault to discuss options for the alliance.”
Shareholders at Japan’s second-biggest automaker were due to vote on a new governance structure and 11-member board, after the arrest last year of Ghosn over financial misconduct allegations – which he denies – revealed auditing weaknesses at the company.
Renault, Nissan’s biggest shareholder with 43.4% of the Japanese automaker, had demanded additional representation for its directors on Nissan groups overseeing company auditing and personnel nominations.
Saikawa had initially pushed back at those the demands, but late last week Nissan granted seats to Senard and Renault CEO Thierry Bollore on its nominations and auditing committees, respectively.
Although that maneuvering helped pull the Nissan-Renault alliance back from the brink of crisis – and may have saved Saikawa’s job – the former Ghosn lieutenant is now faced with the unenviable task of trying to shore up a partnership that many in Japan see as lopsided and deeply inequitable.
Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu; Editing by David Dolan and Christopher Cushing