(Corrects spelling of name in penultimate paragraph to Shohei)
By Laurence Frost and Yoko Kubota
PARIS/TOKYO, March 17 (Reuters) - Renault and alliance partner Nissan unveiled plans on Monday to integrate key operations and pursue economies of scale to keep up with big rivals like Volkswagen.
The creation of a new alliance management team was among the steps announced by Renault-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn after 15 years of softly-softly cooperaton between the French and Japanese carmakers.
Squeezed by the rising costs of emissions regulation at home and tougher competition in emerging markets, where demand is slowing, western carmakers have looked to mergers, alliances and ad-hoc production deals to share costs and boost profitability.
Renault and 43.4 percent-owned affiliate Nissan are rolling out new models on a jointly developed mass-market vehicle architecture and in January raised their savings goal to at least 4.3 billion euros ($6 billion) by 2016. [ID: nL5N0L446L]
Confirming moves that were flagged at the time, Ghosn named new executive vice presidents on Monday to run converged manufacturing, research and development, purchasing and human resource functions across the alliance, starting on April 1.
The Renault-Nissan CEO pledged an “immediate increase in efficiency”, adding in an alliance statement that the savings would help to “deliver higher-value vehicles to customers and stay at the leading edge of innovation”.
Renault and Nissan, which in turn owns 15 percent of Renault, lag behind Volkswagen, Hyundai-Kia and Toyota on platform scale - the number of vehicles assembled from a common architecture.
In the face of bolder rival tie-ups such as the Fiat Chrysler merger, Ghosn has argued that cultural sensitivities prevented faster Renault-Nissan integration.
As a result, analysts and insiders say, the alliance has missed significant savings opportunities over the years as Nissan and Renault went their separate ways on programmes such as electric cars and light commercial vehicles.
Under the plans announced on Monday Japanese executives from Nissan take the core new engineeering and manufacturing leadership roles.
Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi, current head of platforms and parts, will hold overall responsibility for research and development in engines and vehicles, including future electric cars.
Industrial strategy, production and supply chain management will be headed by Shohei Kimura, while former Renault executives Christian Vandenhende and Marie-Francoise Damesin lead combined purchasing and human resources.
The shake-up will lead to a cascade of lower-level appointments, people with knowledge of the matter said on Monday, including a new Renault China boss brought in from Nissan. ($1=0.7181 euros) (Editing by Greg Mahlich)