The Paradoxical Alliance
Author: Morosini, Piero
Source: European School of Management and Technology
Company Name: Renault, Nissan
Number of pages: 18
In late March 1999, French car company Renault announced that it had bought a 36.6 percent stake in Japanese Nissan for US$5.4 billion to form an alliance between the two companies. With no experience of running a global operation, and still recovering from a failed attempt to merge with Volvo in 1995, Renault seemed an unlikely candidate to take on Nissan, which with US$20 billion of debt, was verging on bankruptcy. The press and industry analysts were nearly unanimous in their disapproval of the alliance, which one observer referred to as 'a marriage of desperation for both parties.' By March 2004, Renault's investment was worth US$18.4 billion, and was regarded as a successful model by competitors, practitioners and business schools. How did Renault and Nissan achieve this remarkable turnaround? Through a unique approach, beginning with a six-month social initiation phase, which established common ground and concrete opportunities for collaboration between the two companies. Carlos Ghosn (a Renault executive who became Chief Operations Officer of Nissan in 1999, and later Chief Executive Officer) was central to this process, through his introduction of the Nissan Revival Plan. This was a company-wide business initiative with clear targets, which aimed to radically strengthen the company's 'common glue' around the mission of revival. In parallel, the social amalgamation between Renault and Nissan continued through cross-company teams, and nurtured collaboration. In this way, the companies created an environment of genuine trust, loyalty and reciprocity, which in turn enabled them to develop the integration mechanisms needed to forge a top performing global partnership in less than five years.