FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich., AP -The chief executive of Renault SA and Nissan Motor Corp. reassured the Detroit auto world Friday that his companies have no intention of taking over General Motors Corp., the world’s biggest automaker.
Carlos Ghosn also made his strongest statement yet that he wasn’t interested in running GM and that he was committed to his present responsibilities.
“We are not making a bid for General Motors, and we don’t want to do it,” Ghosn told reporters ahead of a scheduled meeting with GM Chairman and Chief Executive Rick Wagoner. “We are not trying to acquire anything; we are trying to partner with other people, which is a different story.”
Ghosn and Wagoner had not spoken in person in the two weeks since billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian disclosed his proposal to have GM join Nissan and Renault’s alliance. Their meeting was scheduled for Friday evening.
“The companies agreed to cooperate in an expeditious, confidential review of the potential benefits of such an alliance to each company and the feasibility of achieving them,” GM, Renault and Nissan said in a joint statement released late Friday.
The statement said the review is expected to take about 90 days and that the companies will then consider whether more study of an alliance is warranted. Wagoner and Ghosn said in the statement that they will not offer any more public comments about the matter at this time so their teams can work on the review “without distraction.”
Speaking earlier Friday in the vaulted glass lobby of Nissan’s North American Technical Center in the Detroit suburb of Farmington Hills, Ghosn brushed aside comparisons between the proposed alliance with GM and the 1998 linking of Chrysler Corp. and Daimler-Benz AG.
“One is a partnership, the other is a merger,” he said, noting that France’s Renault and Japan’s Nissan have maintained separate headquarters, separate boards and separate shares. “There is nothing you can build in a successful way for the long term if somehow people are not willing.”
Some analysts have speculated that Kerkorian’s motive in proposing the alliance was to get Ghosn to take over for Wagoner at GM. Ghosn, a Brazilian-born French citizen, is widely admired in the industry and has become a celebrity in Japan thanks to his success in getting Nissan back on its feet.
But when asked Friday if he was interested in running GM, Ghosn began, “If I was out of work … ,” and was interrupted by laughter and applause from the dozens of reporters and Nissan employees gathered around him.
He said it would be unrealistic to take on a third company.
“I am responsible and accountable for Nissan and for Renault,” he said, adding that he was committed to mid-range plans for both companies. “For the employees and for the shareholders, I’ll be here and I’ll make sure that the two plans will be successful.”
Wagoner and Ghosn have both said they will look for possible synergies from linking the three companies that could save money and help them compete.
For example, GM might be able to use its excess capacity to produce vehicles for Nissan, so that the Japanese company does not have to build another plant in the U.S., Ghosn said in a Thursday interview with CNBC.
Some analysts have criticized the idea of expanding the alliance, saying the potential benefits are unclear and the complicated process of meshing three companies could distract GM from its turnaround plan.
Ghosn refused Friday to put a timeline on the negotiations, but said he was optimistic that they would bear fruit.
“If I was not optimistic, I would not be meeting (Wagoner),” he said.
GM shares fell 85 cents, or 3 percent, to $27.47 Friday on the New York Stock Exchange.