It’s quite the season for auto CEOs to be summoned by the political top brass.
First we had Sergio Marchionne having to give up part of his weekend for a meeting in Rome with Silvio Berlusconi and his senior ministers to discuss rumours of a Fiat move to Detroit – a subject that quietly appears to have died down – for the time being.
Then this week, Renault’s beleaguered boss, Carlos Ghosn, found himself having to answer for his company’s ever-more Byzantine non-case against its three employees – accused of a variety of misdemeanours – all disproved – just one of which happened to be industrial espionage.
Ghosn didn’t quite make it to President Sarkozy’s Elysee Palace – the French Chef d’Etat has rather more pressing concerns with Libya just now – but he nonetheless found himself in the exalted company of Madame Christine Lagarde and Monsieur Eric Besson – both extremely high-profile Ministers at the head of the Finance and Industry Ministries respectively.
Having twisted and turned this week on French television regarding whether his head would roll in Paris, Ghosn appeared to neatly sidestep any question of a French revolution at Renault by refusing his COO’s offer to step down.
But the meeting must have been somewhat of an uncomfortable gathering, with the political duo later using the word “dysfunctional” in a statement with regard to the spy scandal that could surely form the basis of a French thriller one day.
It’s still not clear just what magnitude those “reparations” that Ghosn referred to will take, but it’s a fair bet the Renault 3’s lawyers will be looking at adding a nought or two.
This has been a fantastical episode in Renault’s and indeed France’s industrial history that has seen incredulous developments on an almost daily basis.
The statement issued by the French ministers after the meeting surely only scratches at the surface of what must have been discussed in the corridors of power. Ghosn and Pelata keep their heads, but will Renault?