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Hires and fires at Nissan, Renault: Finale or cliffhanger?


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Hires and fires at Nissan, Renault: Finale or cliffhanger?

If truth really is stranger than fiction, then the soap opera unfolding within the Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.- Renault SA alliance is starting to look worthy of its own box set.

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Former Renault CEO Thierry Bolloré
Source: AP Photo

In last week's installment, Nissan appointed Makoto Uchida, head of its China operations, as its next CEO. Days later, Renault CEO Thierry Bolloré, who stepped into the job in January to help patch up a souring relationship with its Japanese partner, was unceremoniously dismissed by Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard.

It is the latest twist in a storyline of ego, deceit — and now, apparently, betrayal — that began almost 12 months ago with the arrest of "Car Tsar" Carlos Ghosn, who forged and ran the alliance in a reputedly autocratic style for about two decades but was brought down by whistleblower allegations of financial misconduct.

Echoing Ghosn's ignominious arrest on a runway in Tokyo after jetting in from Paris, Bolloré told Les Echos he learned of his own imminent ouster upon landing in the French capital at dawn last Wednesday on a flight in the opposite direction.

Analysts suggest Bolloré was collateral damage in the delicate process of rebuilding trust between the two companies. His removal was Renault's attempt to show good faith after Nissan's purge of its own uppermost echelons of Ghosn-era executives, one analyst said.

Bolloré denounced his ouster as a "coup" and Chairman Senard made little effort to dress it up as much else at a press conference on Oct. 11, hours after the decision was confirmed and at which he presented a "surprised" CFO Clotilde Delbos to reporters as interim CEO.

"There comes a time for a company, when it's necessary to find a new impetus and I think that was the case for Renault," Senard said. "Once again, there was nothing personal."

So does the show end here, or will there be a sequel? There is much work to be done to repair the damage of the last year, but one ending an audience of analysts have ruled out is a divorce. As in many a Dallas or Dynasty storyline, the spouses may no longer love each other, but in an increasingly cutthroat industry, a love gone cold still looks preferable to the unfathomably bleak prospect of going it alone.

Chart of the week: Food at home price index

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Renault replaces CEO Thierry Bolloré after less than one year in the job

The board of directors has appointed CFO Clotilde Delbos as interim CEO, just days after alliance partner Nissan named its own new leadership.

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Consumer Edge is a weekly collection of critical developments across the automotive; retail; and food, beverage, and tobacco industries. Drawing on exclusive analysis and value-added content from the Consumer News team at S&P Global Market Intelligence, it is published every Thursday.