Renault and the Alliance: January 2020's resolutions

My name is Luca... I think you've seen me before (Source AFP)
After more than a year of very turbulent times, Renault and the Alliance seem to be gradually getting back on track. After the many departures to PSA, the arrival in the opposite direction of Gilles Le Borgne at the head of engineering could already be interpreted as a symbol.
The finalization of Luca de Meo's recruitment is another. Indeed, even if he will not officially take over the reins until July, with his appointment and the movements that are already being recorded in the management teams, we can already which path Jean-Dominique Senard intends to put the company on.
First of all, the idea that the automotive industry is an industry like any other (and where the invocation of a strong specificity would always be a form of resistance to change) seems to have faded away.
Apart from the fact that the case for the autonomous vehicle, which had powerfully served to accredit this thesis throughout the industry, is now arousing less and less enthusiasm and more and more doubt, at Renault, it is the painful experience of the Thierry Bolloré era that is leading to this return to fundamentals.
Indeed, managers from other industries, as well as consultants from BCG and others, have in recent years defined policies that, seen from within the firm, often seemed to neglect the realities and, by not listening to internal specialists, led to operational disappointments.
The departure of François Renard - Unilever bred - from the global marketing department was already a strong sign of this. The fact that the future new CEO has spent his entire career in the automotive industry, starting with Renault, is another.
Following the departure of Olivier Murguet, Denis Le Vot finally took his place. Denis Le Vot joined Renault in 1990 at the age of 25 and spent his entire career there.
Although he is an engineer from the "Mines" (the elite of French engineers in the industry), he mainly held international sales positions and did a major stint at Nissan in North America. Over the past 30 years, he has had time to understand what Renault is and what its competitors around the world are like. He knows the teams, networks, economies and regulations that sales and marketing have to adapt to, and both L. de Meo and J.-D. Senard seem to have seen this as an advantage rather than a handicap.
He will be assisted by a new "world marketing director", Xavier Martinet, who joined Renault in 1987 at the age of 22. He has spent his entire career in sales and marketing and, between 2010 and 2013, will also be working for Nissan NorthAmerica as Senior Brand Manager, Marketing Range. Experience, consistency, ability to bring a point of view and even a vision: these seem to be the new selection criteria for joining the Executive Committee or the Management Committee.
This will be a balm to the heart of the teams who have sometimes wondered in recent times whether docility and the ability to repeat to the point of absurdity a "story telling" that is less and less in line with the facts had not become the key criteria.
At the end of a chaotic year, J.-D. Senard seems to have taken the measure of what Renault and the Alliance are and are not beyond what Carlos Ghosn and Thierry Bolloré wanted to show.
At a time when stringent management accounting will be necessary to restore profitability, atNissan first where it has sharply dropped, then at Renault where it is declining too, without giving up investing in new products and in the platforms and technologies that will finally make the electric car fully attractive, it is time to stop telling stories and to measure as accurately as possible the gaps that separate the Alliance from the objectives it has set for itself.
The principles that were defined for the Alliance last week consist, for each of the geographical areas, technologies, engines and platforms, to designate among the three companies which is  "leader" and which is "follower". They are nothing new, but J.-D. Senard now knows that they have very often been difficult to apply because the "follower" did not have sufficient confidence in the "leader"'s skills not to try to get his teams to work together to show that the "leader" was wrong and/or to develop and implement an alternative to the supposedly common path that had been agreed upon.
The only change here is that, in the face of difficulties and with Carlos Ghosn gone, both seem determined to respect these principles.
Clotilde Delbos had announced the structuring of a new strategic plan when Thierry Bolloré left and she took up his position as interim CEO. The same exercise will have to be carried out, beyond Nissan's recovery plan, at both Nissan and Mitsubishi.
The way in which discussions will be conducted to define the strategic plans within and between the companies, then the actual content of these first post-Ghosn strategic plans, will make it possible to verify in the coming months whether the new start and the consensus management method advocated by J.-D. Senard are fully convincing. The first signs given in 2020 give some solid reasons for hope.
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Translated with, corrections by Géry Deffontaines 

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