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Nissan's Ghosn crisis

Renault-Nissan alliance must change: French finance chief

Le Maire says status quo 'not possible' as Paris pushes for merger

Le Maire made the remarks on the automakers after meeting with Japan's economy minister.

PARIS -- The three-way automobile alliance among Renault, Nissan Motor and Mitsubishi Motors is doomed to become unsustainable unless changes are made, France's finance chief said Wednesday.

"The status quo is not possible," said Bruno Le Maire, the French minister of the economy and finance. It "weakens the overall alliance."

Le Maire made the comments following a meeting with Hiroshige Seko, Japan's minister of economy, trade and industry. They are attending a two-day gathering here of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ministers ending Thursday.

The French government is the largest shareholder in Renault, with a 15% stake. The French automaker, in turn, controls 43.3% of Japanese partner Nissan. It recently came to light that Renault pitched placing itself and Nissan -- the senior members of the alliance -- under a jointly owned holding company.

Nissan President and CEO Hiroto Saikawa has rebuffed calls for a merger as late as May 14, insisting that "now is not the time." Resentment has been building inside Nissan for some time over attempts to bring the two companies closer together under Carlos Ghosn, who led the alliance until his arrest last year on financial charges.

While not touching specifically on a merger proposal, Le Maire was adamant about the need to overhaul the business relationship.

"We have to move forward, develop, strengthen this alliance," he told reporters.

A way that can be achieved, Le Maire added, is for Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard to examine the issue together with the Japanese leaders responsible for the alliance.

Seko declined to discuss his meeting with Le Maire in detail, but he voiced his desire to collaborate with the French.

"I strongly support their determination to maintain and strengthen the cooperative relationship between the Japanese-French alliance," Seko said.

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