* CEO Ghosn to assume duties temporarily
* Tavares quits COO role with immediate effect
By Laurence Frost and Gilles Guillaume
PARIS, Aug 29 Renault SA's
second-in-command, Carlos Tavares, quit on Thursday, two weeks
after he dismayed colleagues by hinting he might join one of the
Tavares, chief operating officer at the French auto
manufacturer, said in an interview with Bloomberg published on
Aug. 14 that he had "the energy and appetite for a No. 1
position" but was unlikely to succeed Chief Executive Carlos
Ghosn, 59, any time soon.
"My experience would be good for any car company," Tavares
said in the interview. "Why not GM? I would be honoured to lead
a company like GM."
"It raised a lot of eyebrows," a Renault insider who asked
not to be identified said on Thursday. "How do you motivate your
teams when you've said publicly you'd rather be at GM or Ford?"
Another colleague said Tavares' departure followed an
informal meeting on Aug. 26 at which Ghosn "sounded out" senior
"It's brutal, but what Tavares had said in (the interview)
did not win him any friends."
Tavares' exit marks the second departure by a Ghosn
lieutenant in as many years after his predecessor, Patrick
Pelata, was ousted over his role in the wrongful dismissal of
"This is clearly bad news for Renault," said Deutsche Bank
analyst Gaetan Toulemonde. "Tavares is a real car guy, and
replacing him internally is no easy matter because the alliance
structure isn't simple - you need someone who has a certain
recognition at Nissan as well."
Renault said in a statement that Tavares would cease to be
COO immediately and his duties would be assumed temporarily by
Ghosn, who also heads Japanese affiliate Nissan Motor Co Ltd
Tavares joined Renault in 1981. He moved to Nissan 23 years
later as programme director for compact cars and rose to the
rank of Americas chief before returning to Renault in 2011.
Ford Motor Co spokesman Jay Cooney said the company
has "succession plans in place for each of our key leadership
positions" including CEO Alan Mulally, 68. Chief Operating
Officer Mark Fields is widely seen as heir apparent.
"Our preference always is to develop talent internally, and
we are fortunate to have a strong list of internal candidates,"
"He's not coming here," General Motors Co spokesman
Greg Martin said of Tavares joining the company, now led by CEO
Dan Akerson, who is 64. Chrysler, a unit of Italian automaker
Fiat SpA, declined to comment "as a matter of policy."
In his last Nissan role, Tavares slashed production costs
with an industrial expansion in Mexico and won $1.6 billion in
U.S. Energy Department funding for an electric-car battery
His exit deals a setback to Ghosn's efforts to revive the
domestic industrial base with new production for 43.4
percent-owned Nissan and a renewed push into larger, plusher and
Tavares also piloted a ground-breaking labour deal with
French unions that introduced wage restraint and longer working
hours in return for production commitments.
His determination to narrow the pricing gap with German
rival Volkswagen AG also helped deliver an
unexpected increase in core earnings in the first half, despite
Senior executives who have worked with Tavares say he would
be well-suited to a high-placed role at a U.S. carmaker.
"He is one of finest auto executives in the world. And he is
qualified to run any auto company or major supplier," former
Chrysler Group LLC CEO Tom LaSorda said in an email.
"The big PE/VC firms should grab him fast. Renault made a
big mistake," said LaSorda, who now runs a venture capital fund
based in suburban Detroit.