Blog: Dave LeggettMan in Paris spotlight

Dave Leggett | 26 September 2006

I am going to the Paris Motor Show tomorrow. One man will be under the media spotlight more than most. Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn is sure to be quizzed on the progress of the ambitious sounding ‘Renault Commitment 2009’ plan outlined earlier this year. Under that plan a product onslaught (eight models each year between 2007 and 2009) is supposed to boost Renault sales and profitability, with an emphasis on higher margin prestige and niche models.

In that context the Renault line-up for Paris this year looks a little disappointing. There’s a Twingo concept (production model due next year), an SUV concept called Z45 (expected to share quite a bit with the next Nissan X-Trail) and a luxury four-seat soft-top that may offer some cues on the eventual Laguna replacement (late 2007).

At this point, it just looks a bit thin on the product side and there’s still the small matter of what Renault’s brand can realistically support outside of France. Maybe it all gets going on the product engineering side next year, with a big ramping up of new product in 2008.

Patrick Pelata (Renault’s product planning chief) was highly critical of recent Renault designs and the design process earlier this year. I suspect that he would rather Renault takes its time to get it right, but the timetable outlined by Mr Ghosn certainly adds another pressure.

Another talking point will be the question of adding another member to the Renault-Nissan club - GM. The 90-day study is still ongoing, but indications on which way the wind may be blowing will be eagerly sought. I reckon Ghosn sees low-hanging fruit in purchasing and product engineering and also sees a challenge he would like, cemented with some sort of capital tie-up.

GM’s management though, may feel that it has regained some initiative recently (chiefly through better financial results) and that it can argue for a looser relationship and selective collaborations, that the green shoots from the existing GM turnaround plan need to be given a chance.

Indeed, it seems that GM’s management may have some support in that view from a Nissan board member who recently noted that there are many options for alliance and collaborations without the need for cross-shareholdings. It could also be the case that two close partners can work well together, but the idea of three with large areas of overlap is just a little daunting.


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