British motor sector jobs at risk from French power grab

british motor manufacturing at risk

More than 7,000 jobs are at risk, as well as hundreds more at Nissan’s design facilities in Paddington, central London, and its engineering centre in Cranfield, Bedfordshire, should Paris go ahead with plans to take control of more than 30 per cent of Renault.
Renault owns 43.4 per cent of Nissan after the companies formed an alliance in 1999 when the Japanese carmaker was close to bankruptcy.
The proposal, reports The Times, has put pressure on the tie-up and is being seen as a possible backdoor attempt by Emmanuel Macron, the French economics minister, to nationalise Renault and move jobs back to France.
There has also been speculation in Paris that Mr Macron has his eyes on the hundreds of millions of pounds that Nissan has ploughed into Sunderland in recent years.
Nissan makes more than 500,000 cars a year in the northeast, a third of UK output, including the bestselling Qashqai and Nissan Leaf. Production of Nissan’s Infiniti Q30 is starting this week in Sunderland, where the car plant is the biggest private sector employer in the area.
Under a new protectionist law, the French government is set to take more than 30 per cent control of Renault from next spring, ostensibly to prevent a foreign takeover.
However, Nissan executives are worried that the new law could be used by Mr Macron to interfere with the management of Renault and Nissan and create more jobs in the carmaker’s under-utilised factories in France.
The Nissan board, which met this week, has effectively issued an ultimatum to the French government to reduce its stake and to allow Nissan to have voting rights in Renault to go alongside its 15 per cent equity stake in the French company.
It also wants an agreement with Mr Macron that Renault will take its stake in Nissan to below 40 per cent to prevent the French government having too great a say in the operation of the Japanese group.
Renault-Nissan has been seen as the most successful of automotive alliances in which different manufacturers collaborate to build new cars, creating economies of scale and cutting costs. Mr Macron, 36, a former Rothschild banker, has ambitions to become a presidential candidate.
One industry source close to behind-the-scenes negotiations, said: “The alliance is based on trust and co-operation. Mr Macron has shaken these principles and brought the alliance to the brink.
“Nissan does not want political interference and it especially does not want operational interference and strategic decisions which are made in the interests of France and not of Nissan or the alliance.”
The French government used to have a 15 per cent stake in Renault to mirror that of Nissan. However it increased that to 19.5 per cent in April.
The protectionist law gives the French government the right to double its voting rights in any company in which it is a long-term shareholder.