Renault-Nissan should have merged with Fiat Chrysler: Ghosn

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Carlos Ghosn, the former head of the Renault-Nissan alliance, on Wednesday lamented the failure of the carmakers to merge with Fiat Chrysler (FCA), which has since combined with Peugeot (PSA).

Speaking publicly for the first since his dramatic escape from Japan at the end of 2019, Ghosn told reporters in Beirut that he had been in negotiations with John Elkann, a member of Fiat’s owning family.

“In 2017, the alliance was the number one automotive group. Three companies growing, profitable. We were preparing to add Fiat Chrysler to the group because I was negotiating with John Elkann for Fiat Chrysler to join,” he said.

“I had contact with FCA. We had a lot of understanding, we have very good dialogue. Unfortunately, I was arrested before we could come to a conclusion,” Ghosn said, adding that a meeting had been scheduled for January 2019 to try to conclude a deal.

Renault-Nissan has been in management turmoil ever since Ghosn’s arrest in Tokyo in November 2018 on allegations of financial misconduct, which he denies. He was awaiting trial in Japan when he fled to Lebanon.

Fiat Chrysler and Renault did announce a $35 billion plan to merge in May 2019, when Ghosn was in detention, but the Italian-American company pulled out only 10 days after the deal was made public.

The Renault-Nissan alliance has struggled to move on since the collapse of the deal, which would have created the third biggest carmaker behind Volkswagen VOWG_p.DE and Toyota.

“The alliance missed the unmissable, which is Fiat Chrysler. That is unbelievable, they go with PSA. How can you miss that huge opportunity to become the dominant player in the industry?” Ghosn said. “Who is the winner of all this?”

“It’s a great opportunity for PSA, it’s a big waste for Renault,” said Ghosn.

Reporting by Samia Nakhoul and Eric Knecht; Writing by Edward Taylor; Editing by David Clarke