With Ghosn Set for Release, Renault-Nissan Cozy Up Without Him

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As Carlos Ghosn prepares to leave his Japanese prison after more than 100 days behind bars, the two automaker giants he used to run pledged their allegiance to each other while ruling out a return for the disgraced industry titan.

Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co. executives said they will extend a two-decade accord, even as a Tokyo court upheld a decision to grant bail for Ghosn, who is accused of aggravated breach of trust and filing false income statements to regulators.

“Nissan couldn’t exist in Europe without the alliance,” the company’s regional chairman, Gianluca de Ficchy, said in an interview at the Geneva Motor Show.

The automakers, whose booths stand next to each other at the annual industry event and are just a few meters away from third partner Mitsubishi Motors Corp., talked up the advantages of their partnership as speculation intensifies about potential consolidation in the industry, which is battling to adapt to environmental regulations and the making of electric and driverless cars.

Read More: Ghosn Closer to Release as Court Rejects Prosecutors’ Appeal

Nissan “wouldn’t be competitive in terms of costs” if the automakers went their separate ways, de Ficchy added, citing as an example the increasingly strict emissions rules in the European Union.

Renault Chief Executive Officer Thierry Bollore called for the partnership to become even closer and more efficient in the absence of Ghosn. He also ruled out any possibility of a return for the carmaking luminary, who while free of prison will still have to prepare for what’s likely to be a blockbuster trial some months away.

Until Ghosn’s arrest last year, the Renault-Nissan alliance was often cited as an example of a successful combination that didn’t go as far as a merger, underpinned by cross-shareholdings and cost cutting. Yet the partnership has been strained by the scandal surrounding Ghosn, with insiders from both sides saying trust between the two teams has degraded since the executive was jailed and ousted as both Nissan and Mitsubishi chairman. Nissan is also said to have sought a review of the pact’s lopsided power structure.