The axe was wielded at Renault HQ today and out went the CEO, under protest, it appears

The axe was wielded at Renault HQ today and out went the CEO, under protest, it appears

News Renault has dismissed Thierry Bollore as CEO with immediate effect, ending a week of intense speculation concerning the future of the automaker's top management, is likely to draw a lot of eyeballs to just-auto from about now. As an interim measure, Renault's board appointed Clotilde Delbos as CEO until a process is completed to appoint a new chief executive officer. The board also gave what the automaker refers to as "a favourable opinion" on the appointment of Olivier Murguet and Jose Vincente de los Mozos as deputy managing directors to assist Delbos in her duties. In addition, Renault chairman, Jean-Dominique Senard will assume the presidency of the manufacturer during the interim period. Delbos joined Renault in 2012 as group controller. In 2014, she was appointed Alliance global director, control, in addition to her current role as senior vice president, Renault Group controller. In 2016, Delbos  was made EVP, chief financial officer of Renault. She also became chairwoman of the board of directors of RCI Banque. She also is a member of the group executive committee.

Rumours had swirled since it became known Renault's board was meeting this morning (11 October) to "discuss" future governance of the group and Bollore's future. Speculation in France had centred on the possibility Bollore could be replaced. The shake-up capped a series of management changes at both Renault and Alliance partner, Nissan, which this week appointed current SVP and Dongfeng president, Makoto Uchida as representative executive officer and CEO of the Japanese automaker. In addition, the board appointed current Mitsubishi chief operating officer, Ashwani Gupta, as representative executive officer and COO of Nissan. All this in a turbulent year for Renault following former CEO, Carlos Ghosn's incarceration in a Tokyo detention centre for some time now, where he faces a trial related to financial misconduct, which he denies. Much-vaunted talk of a tie-up between Renault and FCA also foundered on the rocks earlier this year, while any boardroom changes will attract the attention of the French government, which has a 15% stake in the automaker.

As we commented: The board of Renault has decided to change its CEO in a sign that it is determined to move on from the turmoil of the past year and the uncertainty that hangs over its relationship with Alliance partner Nissan. The Renault board knows that Renault's strategic direction is effectively on hold in the wake of Nissan's current difficulties and a proposed Fiat-Chrysler merger that was rejected. That needs to be addressed and today's announcement that a temporary CEO replaces Bollore (seen as an old guard representative) while a permanent CEO is sought, signals it is serious about moving on from the Carlos Ghosn era. Top of the agenda is the need for clarity and a possible re-set of the Renault-Nissan Alliance. A full merger is well and truly off the agenda, but both companies will be aware of the difficulties involved in separating out their existing joint activities and operations. The Alliance has delivered substantial benefits to its participants over many years in engineering savings, supply-chain leverage and scale economies. Annual cost savings are in excess of EUR5bn, with EUR10bn a year previously targeted, helped by the 2017 addition of Mitsubishi to the club. That EUR10bn figure may look optimistic now after the tensions of the past year, but the sizeable Alliance synergies and cost savings would certainly be missed if they disappeared.

Away from the boardroom battles, our interview with Lynk & Co CEO Alain Visser drew some interest. He stated on several occasions in recent years that the brand would be selling half a million vehicles annually in 2020. That won't now happen, due to delayed launches in the US and Europe as well as turbulence in the Chinese market. Nonetheless, what Geely chairman Li Shufu calls his 'disrupter' brand will push ahead with new ways of doing business on three continents. Visser has been deeply involved in the global car business for decades, starting at Ford in his native Belgium then progressing up the ranks at GM Opel and most recently Volvo, before being made head of Lynk & Co. As CEO, Visser is responsible for the global business and is right now fully concerned with the implementation of the division's business model in markets outside China. That will firstly involve a push into Europe, starting with Amsterdam in late 2020, then a couple of other cities and the US in 2021.

Many will remember Ford Europe's Puma as a nice little coupe spun off an earlier generation Fiesta line. Now the nameplate is being revived as, you guessed it, a crossover, like we need any more. Ford has this week started production at its assembly plant in Craiova which usetabuild the B-Max and more recently added the EcoSport after that little SUV's shift from India. In order to support production of the new Puma, Ford started a large scale process of hiring about 1,700 people last year and has spent about EUR200m (US$220m) at the plant. The automaker's total investment in Craiova is now about EUR1.5bn since taking over the former Daewoo factory in 2008. The Puma has a 48 volt mild hybrid powertrain - here comes electrification across the board. The automaker entered Romania in March 2008 when it acquired a 72.4% stake in Automobile Craiova, the sole owner of car maker and distributor Daewoo Automobile Romania and currently has about 6,000 employees there.

Geely's Volvo Cars reveals its all-electric XC40 crossover next week and has steadily been drip feeding details. Latest: it was fundamentally rethinking infotainment. Powered by Android, the new infotainment system offers "unprecedented" personalisation, improved levels of intuitiveness and new embedded Google technology and services, the automaker claimed. It is the first automaker to work with Google on integrating an infotainment system powered by Android, with Google Assistant, Maps and the Play Store built in. The two companies have been development partners for the past few years. The new system offers full integration of Android Automotive OS, Google's open-source Android platform, with real-time updates to services such as MapsAssistant and automotive apps created by the global developer community. The electric XC40 is also the first Volvo that will receive software and operating system updates over the air.

Just occasionally, I get let out to drive an actual car. This time it was Kia's XCellent new XCeed, adding a crossover to the Slovakian built Ceed line for the first time. After the Ceed hatchback and ProCeed warm-up acts in Europe, my first encounter with the XCeed was both in RHD UK specification and on familiar English territory and it's impressive - any crossover at this stage of the game is a 'me-too' product, sure, but the new Kia draws attention for keen pricing (GBP20,795 to GBP29,195) with only GBP570 'premium' paint and GBP250 (manual) or GBP750 (DCT automatic) advanced driving assistance packs as factory options. Showroom simplicity begins right there with 2 (nicely equipped), 3 (very nicely equipped) or First Edition (loaded) trims to choose from and then, according to trim, 118hp direct injected petrol turbo 1.0T-DGi with six speed manual only, a 1.4T-GDi 138hp with either six speed DIY or seven speed, dual clutch automatic, plus six-speed manual-only 114hp or 134hp 1.6CRDi diesels. There should be something for everyone in that roster without the premium brands' complex and expensive vast options lists. Kia dealers likely also appreciate the relative ease of ordering and stocking the cars they know their local customer base will buy. We also took a look at one Kia model line I have yet to try, the Niro, in updated hybrid form.

Western Europe's car market was up by a hefty 13.9% year-on-year (YoY) in September as a base effect comparison with the same month last year distorted the result. Our report noted growth in September was inevitable due to WLTP-related distortions in September 2018 (it was an exceptionally low and depleted market following a surge in August). Further changes to emissions testing regulations came into effect on 1 September this year, which appear to have pulled forward sales to August, at the expense of September. The regional annualised selling rate fell to 13.1m  units a year in September, from a whopping 16.9m units a year in August.

Have a nice weekend.

Graeme Roberts, Deputy Editor, just-auto.com

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