Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sarkozy versus Ghosn, public dispute? "Renault C'est Qui?"

Nicolas Sarkozy and Carlos Ghosn

Carlos Ghosn most admired, still, is the target of the Palace.
When Carlos Ghosn was "summoned" at the Élysée palace by France
president Nicolas Sarkozy, I immediately remembered what the
Chief of Renault and Nissan told me about politicians and

In my first interview with the Mr Ghosn published in Valmonde
group media "Carlos Ghosn The French Samurai", in July 2001, I
asked Mister Ghosn's views on politician Junichiro Koizumi, the then
flamboyant prime minister of Japan (who ruled 2 mandates with top
level of popularity). Clear enough is what Carlos Ghosn then
stated about how he views his role and the role of politicians.


"... each time he (prime minister Koizumi) intervened in the field
of economy, he mentioned Nissan and he did it in a constructive
and positive manner. I trust his modernizer spirit, but you
know, me, I am an industrialist, bottom line: the intentions
account for 5% of the work, and 95% is in the application of the
project and the demonstration by the facts"...

end of quotes.

Quite a puzzling debate, and seen from a Tokyo perspective it is
interesting to follow how Paris, or the EU rules tend to modify
the way companies are or want to be ruled and how it confronts
administrative policies. Something to ponder when in 10, 20
years, some say later, Asia would build a formula of loose
economical integration.

It did not make Japanese comfortable. Nothing here is made
without the decisions of a dozen of very powerful industrialists,
and without accepting the effects, Sarkozy or his staff
undermined Carlos Ghosn work in Tokyo, where-else...?

Media comments, also quite impressive was the title of the Wall
Street Op-Ed:

"Renault, C'est Moi" For French President Sarkozy the subversion
of EU free market rules is French business as usual.


Carlos Ghosn might be one of the world's most admired CEOs, but
last weekend Nicolas Sarkozy summoned the Nissan-Renault
executive to the Elysée Palace to show him who's the real boss.
The reason for the French President's ire? Renault plans to move
a production site overseas just when Mr. Sarkozy is facing
regional elections. France still holds 15% of Renault and lent
the company €3 billion during last year's financial crisis. And
so when news broke that the car maker might produce its next Clio
model in Turkey, Nicolas Sarkozy saw his chance to play patriot
games. "We are not giving all that money to support the auto
sector so that all our factories can leave," Mr. Sarkozy told
lawmakers last week. "I strongly contest the idea that these big
companies, just because they are global, no longer have a

Mr. Ghosn got the message. "Renault is a French company, a
socially responsible citizen," he said after the meeting at the
palace. He promised that some of the production of the
subcompact car will stay in France, which corresponds with the
government's dictates. "When a French car is destined for the
French market, it has to be made in France," Industry Minister
Christian Estrosi told parliament last week. This nonchalant
subversion of the European Union's free market principles and
state-aid rules has so far triggered only a muted response from
the European Commission. With even Britain now exhibiting a
weakness for French-style mercantilism (see Peter Mandelson's
meddling in the Cadbury takeover battle) it's probably not
surprising that Mr. Sarkozy has returned to French business as
usual. French consumers, and Renault itself, will be the ones
who ultimately pay the price.

and In the Irish Times:

"... The French government on Sunday tried to save face vis a
vis Carlos Ghosn in its dispute with Renault, insisting it had
secured a promise from the car maker that units of its future
Clio small car destined for the domestic market would be made in
France. Ministers have leant heavily on Renault since it emerged
earlier this week that it was considering centring production of
the Clio 4, to be launched in 2013, at its lower-cost factory in
Bursa, Turkey, rather than in France. Paris had insisted that a
majority of Clio 4s were assembled in France, either at Renault’s
Flins site, near Paris, or at another factory. President Nicolas
Sarkozy raised the pressure by summoning Carlos Ghosn, Renault
chief executive, to the Élysée Palace on Saturday. But Sarkozy
received only a pledge that part of future Clio production would
be in France. Claude Guéant, Sarkozy’s chief of staff, insisted
on Sunday that the government – which has a 15 per cent stake in
the company – had got everything it asked for."

End of quotes

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