Renault to build Nissan cars in France - minister

Fri Jan 18, 2013 5:35am EST

* Minister says Nissan should help French factories

* Renault says no decision taken

By Nicholas Vinocur

PARIS, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Renault Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn has agreed to build cars in France for alliance partner Nissan, French Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg said on Friday.

Montebourg said in an interview with RMC radio that he had spoken to Ghosn, who heads both carmakers, after Renault told unions it planned to cut 7,500 domestic jobs over four years.

"Since you are also the head of Nissan, and Renault controls Nissan, Nissan should come to the aid of French factories and bring work to French production lines," Montebourg said he told Ghosn.

Asked whether French Renault plants would build Nissan models, the minister responded: "That is what I asked ... The answer was 'yes'."

But Renault, which is 15 percent government-owned and holds 43.4 percent of Nissan, said it had not yet committed to building models in France for its Japanese partner.

"The decision is not taken as of today," Renault sales chief Jerome Stoll told reporters when asked about Montebourg's comments.

Renault is demanding a longer work-week and other concessions in talks with French unions and has dangled the possibility of Nissan and Daimler production to keep domestic plants running.

Announcing the planned job cuts earlier this week, Renault said it hoped about three-quarters of the staff reduction could be made through normal turnover.

Montebourg, who criticised competitor PSA Peugeot Citroen's plans to cut 8,000 jobs and close a plant, has said Renault's restructuring plans are acceptable because they include no compulsory redundancies.

Automakers across Europe are having to slash costs and capacity to stem losses, as the euro zone debt crisis and government austerity plans sap car demand. European car sales were close to a 20-year low in 2012.

In its union negotiations, Renault is pushing workers to accept a new nationwide deal on pay and conditions to align productivity with cheaper European sites such as its Palencia plant in Spain and Nissan's Sunderland factory in England. (Additional reporting by Chine Labbe and Gilles Guillaume; Editing by James Regan)