JAKARTA (Reuters) – Carlos Ghosn, head of both Renault SA and Japan’s Nissan Motor Co., said on Wednesday the group was not taking the initiative in alliance talks with U.S. auto makers.
The Franco-Japanese group and General Motors Corp. broke off talks last week after GM demanded a hefty compensation payment for joining an alliance, but Nissan said it was still interested in a U.S. partner as it looks for ways to boost flagging sales.
The breakdown in talks with GM prompted widespread industry speculation that Renault/Nissan may seek to tie up instead with Ford Motor Co.
“I want to make it very clear we are not taking any initiative,” Ghosn told reporters during a trip to Indonesia to unveil a new Nissan model.
Motivating Renault/Nissan, analysts say, is the long-term threat posed by Toyota Motor Corp., which plans to boost its global vehicle sales to 9.8 million in 2008, setting it on course to overtake GM as the world’s biggest auto maker.
But Ford may not be in a position to talk.
Last month, Ford said it would slash $5 billion in costs and cut one-third of its workforce, while warning that its auto business might not make a profit for the next three years.
Although there have been media reports that Bill Ford Jr., the struggling U.S. auto maker’s executive chairman, approached Ghosn in August to talk about possible cooperation, Ford last month named Alan Mulally, a former Boeing Co. executive, as its new CEO.
The GM alliance talks were also seen as having been driven by billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian, who holds 9.9 percent of GM. His board representative, Jerry York, quit GM last week.
Analysts, though, reckon Ford is a less attractive partner for Renault/Nissan than GM.