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Timeline: From boom to bottom: Renault and Nissan bet on deeper cooperation

(Reuters) - Renault SA RENA.PA, Nissan Motor Co 7201.T and Mitsubishi Motors have no plans to merge and will instead focus on a new production sharing plan to cut costs and improve efficiency, Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard said on Wednesday.

Under the plan, the partners have adopted a “leader-follower” strategy where the strongest company in a particular area, such as autonomous driving, spearheads research. They will also turn to the best-positioned member in each region for joint purchasing and broaden the stardardisation of parts.

Since its founding in 1999, the partnership between Renault and Nissan was dominated by its leader, Carlos Ghosn. His arrest on financial misconduct charges in late 2018 and his subsequent ouster as alliance chairman plunged the automakers into turmoil.

The following is a timeline of key events in the alliance’s history.

1996

Ghosn joins Renault as executive vice president as the firm struggles with falling profitability. The next year, he unveils a 20 billion franc cost cutting plan, reviving his reputation as “Le cost killer”, earned previously at tyre maker Michelin.

Renault’s profitability jumps three-fold by the end of 1998.

1999

In March, Renault comes to the rescue of debt-laden Nissan which had lost money for three years in a row.

Ghosn reveals his “Nissan Revival Plan”, targeting a return to profitability in the 2000 financial year. Ghosn and his executive committee promise to resign if they fail.

After cutting 21,000 jobs, or 14 percent of the workforce, shutting some local plants and dismantling Nissan’s “keiretsu” group companies, Nissan hits its goals a year ahead of schedule.

Ghosn is feted as a business celebrity in Japan, inspiring a manga comic based on his life.

2000

Ghosn becomes CEO of Nissan. By the end of 2000, Nissan is contributing roughly half of Renault’s annual net profit, a situation that largely continues to this day.

2002

Nissan announces its “Nissan 180” three-year growth plan, targeting an increase of 1 million vehicles in global sales by September 2005.

FILE PHOTO: A staff member casts his shadow on a wall ahead of Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi chiefs' joint news conference in Yokohama, Japan, March 12, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

2005

Nissan misses its global sales growth target.

It announces a three-year “Value Up” plan to maintain a top-level operating margin, achieve global sales of 4.2 million units by March 2009 and a 20% return on capital on investments.

Ghosn becomes president and CEO of Renault.

2006

Ghosn announces “Renault Commitment 2009” to position the automaker as Europe’s most profitable by volume.

2008

Nissan fails to meet its main “Value Up” targets.

The automaker announces its five-year “GT 2012” plan to focus on investment but scraps it due to the financial crisis.

2011

Nissan announces its “Power 88” mid-term plan, which includes targets to achieve an 8% global operating profit margin and an 8% global market share by 2017.

2012

Nissan focuses on increasing its U.S. market share to 10%. Renault’s operating profit falls for the second straight year due to slowing sales in Europe.

2013

Renault and Nissan announce their “Common Module Family” plan for low-cost development and manufacturing of vehicles.

The system is aimed at reducing component costs by 20%-30% percent across the alliance. The next year, they converge more functions, targeting 10 billion euros ($11 billion) in annual savings by about 2022.

2016

Nissan says it will take a controlling stake in Mitsubishi, which is struggling with a mileage-cheating scandal. Ghosn becomes chairman, making him chairman of all three partners.

2017

Ghosn says he will step down as CEO of Nissan in April to focus on improving profitability at Renault and ensuring the alliance is “irreversible” after he retires.

Nissan posts a record operating profit of 742.2 billion yen ($6.9 billion), but falls short of “Power 88” targets. U.S. profit margins tumble as heavy discounting to boost sales leads to a fall in North American profit.

Ghosn announces the “Alliance M.O.V.E. 2022”, setting combined targets for Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi to achieve the ongoing target of annual synergies of 10 billion euros.

Renault posts record operating profit and global sales of 3.76 million units.

The alliance together sells more than 10 million vehicles globally, making it one of the world’s biggest automakers.

2018

Ghosn is arrested in Japan on charges of underreporting his salary for more than a decade. He is accused of other crimes including using Nissan funds for his own purposes. He is fired as chairman of the alliance.

2019

Nissan and Renault reel from the aftermath of Ghosn’s arrest. Both automakers overhaul their corporate governance system and appoint new boards as profits continue to sink.

The alliance appoints a new chairman, Michelin veteran Jean-Dominique Senard. Tensions escalate between the automakers after Renault attempts to tighten capital ties with Nissan, a move which is rebuked by the Japanese automaker.

On Dec. 29, Ghosn escapes from Japan onboard a chartered flight. He eventually arrives in Lebanon, his childhood home.

2020

Makoto Uchida, Nissan’s new chief executive, says in February he would accept being fired if he fails to turn the carmaker around.

Renault says in April that it is in talks with the French government to secure a state-backed loan worth several billion euros by mid-May to shore up its liquidity.

Alliance Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard rules out any merger of the carmaking partners saying they don’t need to combine to be efficient.

($1 = 107.5500 yen)

Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu; Editing by Carmel Crimmins and David Clarke

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