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Thierry Bollore, COO of Renault, at the Geneva International Motor Show on Mar. 6 (Photo by Kosei Fukao)

Renault gears to drive into Asian market at 'maximum speed'

COO Bollore says that Mitsubishi's help is crucial to success in Southeast Asia

GENEVA -- In an interview with Nikkei, Renault's Chief Operating Officer Thierry Bollore spoke about his vision for expanding business in China and other parts of Asia.

Bollore, who was named COO of the French automaker in February, said putting Mitsubishi Motors under control of Nissan Motor in 2016 made Nissan "much stronger" than it was before.

Renault is trying to increase sales in the Asia-Pacific region four-fold to 700,000 cars by 2022. "We are used to saying that for us, Asia is an opportunity because it's now the biggest market in the world, and the most active and modern one," Bollore said. "So this is a market where we really want to invest."

But achieving its sales goals is a challenge for a relatively small French automaker, with Bollore saying that the only thing Renault can do is press ahead at "maximum speed" in the entire Asian market.

Bollore seems confident about the company's future in China. "In terms of construction of product plants, as well as engineering, we can take advantage of the alliance, which is already strong in China," he said. "It is going to be very profitable."

The alliance between Renault, Nissan and Dongfeng Motor Group, which Bollore calls the "golden triangle," is crucial for Renault's success in China. According to him, possibilities are increasing thanks to a joint venture with Brilliance China Automotive.

The new COO says the addition of Mitsubishi to the Nissan-Renault alliance will help competitiveness in Southeast Asia. "Nissan is learning very much from Mitsubishi in this part of the world," he said.

Bollore is regarded as heir to Carlos Ghosn, CEO of the Renault-Nissan Group, but he declined to comment on the possibility. "This is not my mission. My mission is to take care of Renault operations, and this is what I need to focus on," he said.

Asked about his role, Bollore said it was to handle Renault operations, with all executive committee members reporting to him. He said his new duties include regional, financial and human relations responsibilities. 

Ghosn will take care of the board on his own, Bollore said. "He is in charge of relationships with the board as the CEO of the company," he said. "At the board of Renault you've got several shareholders represented, including the state."

On Mar. 1, Renault and Nissan announced further integration in areas such as research and development as well as purchasing. The two will strengthen ties to make better use of managerial resources for developing next-generation technology, among other things.

There are calls by the French government and others for a complete integration of Renault and Nissan, but Bollore said this was not a goal in itself. "The key is to be as efficient ... as our key competitors. This is the way we measure our success," he said.

Bollore noted that rivals like Toyota and Volkswagen are very strong. "The deep thinking of the alliance members is that our diversity is a force. It's a competitive advantage compared to the very big players," he added.

Nikkei assistant writer Kyra Jaeger contributed to this report.

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