Exclusive: Emissions crackdown exposes Renault-Nissan engine trouble

Tue Dec 6, 2016 10:53am EST
 
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By Laurence Frost and Gilles Guillaume

PARIS (Reuters) - The Renault-Nissan alliance is replacing its top executive in charge of combining the carmakers' engines and gearboxes, sources told Reuters, as tightening emissions regulations expose the slow pace of integration so far.

Alain Raposo, global head of powertrain engineering, will be moved to an advisory role, and a successor announced this week, four people with knowledge of the matter said.

A Renault-Nissan spokeswoman said there would be no comment on "speculation about personnel changes" from the companies or the people involved. "The alliance is on track with its overall convergence objectives, including engineering," she said.

Under Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn, who heads both Renault (RENA.PA: Quote) and Nissan (7201.T: Quote), the carmaking alliance created in 1999 is still moving incrementally towards common vehicle architectures and engines, in search of 5.5 billion euros ($5.9 billion) in annual savings by 2018.

The two groups, with total sales of 145 billion euros, say 85 percent of engines are already shared in some way. But that understates inefficiencies, executives privately concede - as well as the cost of protracted bickering over whose technology becomes standard.

"It's a permanent punch-up - after 17 years we are still unable to think like a single company," said one of Raposo's management colleagues. "In powertrain it's always been hell."

A coming onslaught of emissions regulation in the wake of Volkswagen's (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) exposure last year for cheating U.S. diesel tests has made the problem more urgent.

Independent studies have since blamed Renault for some of the highest real-world nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, piling pressure on engineering boss Gaspar Gascon Abellan and Thierry Bollore, Ghosn's second-in-command at the French carmaker.   Continued...

 
Carlos Ghosn (L), Chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance and Mitsubishi Motors Corp's Chairman and CEO Osamu Masuko attend their joint news conference in Tokyo, Japan, October 20, 2016. REUTERS/Issei Kato - RTX2PNCB