PARIS/TOKYO -- Renault named Michelin chief Jean-Dominique Senard as its new chairman on Thursday, setting the stage for hard bargaining with Nissan Motor over leadership of their global auto alliance.
Senard, who replaces longtime alliance head Carlos Ghosn following his arrest in Japan last November, told reporters he had two priorities.
First, he will propose new governance at Renault in the coming weeks. Senard also seeks discussions with Nissan and fellow alliance member Mitsubishi Motors, he said. "It is important that this alliance be extremely strong."
"We know we have to move forward, we know we have to invest a tremendous amount of resources in new technology," he said, adding, "nobody can imagine that our companies can grow alone."
Senard's appointment, along with that of Thierry Bollore as the new CEO, brings a measure of stability to the French company, which had been without a top leader since Ghosn's arrest on charges of financial misconduct. Senard said he hopes to restore a "climate of trust" in the alliance after turbulent weeks.
The new leadership team also paves the way for Renault, which owns 43.4% of Nissan, to renew its efforts to integrate the two automakers.
Ghosn, who has been held in a Tokyo detention center for two months, was ousted as Nissan chairman soon after his arrest. But he resigned as chairman and CEO of Renault just this week.
Hours before the French automaker's announcement, Nissan signaled it was prepared to consider a call by its largest shareholder to hold an extraordinary meeting for appointing a board member to replace Ghosn.
The Japanese company has twice rebuffed Renault's demand for a shareholders meeting, in a sign of the tensions that have marred the two companies' relationship since Ghosn's arrest.
"We welcome these management changes at Renault," Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa said in a statement. Referring to the synergies the two automakers have created, Saikawa said: "These mutually beneficial activities will not change in any way. In fact, we believe they need to accelerate."
Saikawa told reporters Thursday night that there was "no need for now" to consider the integration of the two automakers.
"It is not the time to discuss the form [of the alliance]," he said, "as it is now important to maximize our synergies while respecting each other's autonomy."
Saikawa said Nissan decided to hold an extraordinary shareholders meeting "as early as possible," so that Senard can join Nissan's board and discuss governance reform.
Saikawa also said he bears part of the responsibility for the charges against Nissan in connection with misreporting Ghosn's pay.
"I intend to pass the baton once the company is back on track," the CEO said.
The French automaker has the right to name the leader of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance. Nissan executives fear heavy influence by Renault's biggest shareholder, the French state, which has a 15% stake. Paris has previously said it wants the alliance to become "irreversible."
Last week, a French government delegation informed Tokyo that it wants to integrate Renault and Nissan. This is thought to be opposed by the Japanese company's board, which believes the result would cede too much control to the French.
Nissan is expected to resist any increased pressure from Renault's new management, and will be suspicious of government involvement.
"Once the new leadership is in place, Renault will likely conduct negotiations with the French government in the driver's seat," said a Nissan executive.