The French side of the Renault / Nissan alliance is making moves, and it doesn’t look good for the relationship. All that and more in The Morning Shift for April 22, 2022.
1st Gear: Renault / Nissan Breakup Seems To Be On Track
The material issue at hand here is that Renault is divesting from Nissan, selling off shares. Bloomberg reports:
Renault SA is considering selling part of its Nissan Motor Co. stake, a move that could raise billions of euros for its shift to electric vehicles and ease long-standing tensions with its alliance partner, people familiar with the matter said.
By paring a stake worth 983.5 billion yen (7.1 billion euros), Renault would be walking a fine line: trying to rebalance a 23-year-old alliance without unraveling it. A lopsided cross-shareholding structure – Nissan owns just 15% of Renault and lacks voting rights – has been a pain point for factions of Nissan executives going back years.
I am not sure exactly how much Renault wants to keep the alliance from unraveling. At least Renault sounds very accommodating:
Negotiations to reshape the Renault-Nissan alliance – which has not been discussed publicly – could take many months, the people said.
Renault’s EV carve-out could include Nissan assets, the people said. Nissan would also be a partner in the French carmaker’s legacy hybrid and combustion-engine operations, they said.
The two companies are working with one another on Renault’s structural overhaul, Chief Financial Officer Thierry Pieton told analysts Friday.
“Nissan is in the loop,” Pieton said. “This is obviously something that we want to discuss with them.”
This makes me wonder if the next news item was discussed with Nissan as well!
2nd Gear: France Issues Ghosn Arrest Warrant
Will I ever forgive Carlos Ghosn for presenting but not building the IDx concepts pictured at the top of this post? Buddy, I’m still mad about the nouveau Silvia that didn’t happen!
Anyway, just as major French automaker Renault makes moves against Nissan, its parent government makes moves against its old boss. From the Wall Street Journal:
French prosecutors issued international arrest warrants for Carlos Ghosn as well as four individuals they say are linked to an auto dealer in Oman, alleging they helped the fallen auto titan funnel millions of euros from Renault SA, according to people familiar with the matter.
An investigating magistrate issued five international arrest warrants against Mr. Ghosn, the former chief of Nissan Motor Co. NSANY -1.34% ▼ and Renault, and the current owners or former directors of the Omani company Suhail Bahwan Automobiles, a vehicle distributor in Oman, the prosecuting office in the Paris suburb of Nanterre said to The Wall Street Journal. They allege Mr. Ghosn funneled millions of dollars of Renault funds through the Omani car distributor for his personal use, including for the purchase of a 120-foot yacht.
Mr. Ghosn fled from a trial on charges of financial wrongdoing in Japan to Lebanon while hidden in a musical equipment box.
I can’t say exactly if Ghosn was remarkably well-backed by the French government so much as opposed by the Japanese one. Maybe it’s not big surprise he’s been pursued by both.
3rd Gear: Lithium Mining Near Salton Sea Worries Locals
The Detroit News has a big report on locals worrying about lithium mining efforts coming to the Salton Sea. That report is behind a paywall, but the local Salton Sea Desert Sun. is not!
Residents living near the Salton Sea say they understand the much-hyped potential of the area for lithium extraction, but they want the federal government to understand the existing health concerns plaguing the community caused by the receding sea, and want to make sure the new industry doesn’t exacerbate those issues.
“I’m primarily concerned for the health of our kids because I’m a mom, and my kid suffers from asthma and nosebleeds for no apparent reason,” said Elizabeth Jaime, a North Shore resident and member of Líderes Campesinas, in Spanish through a translator. “We know about the opportunities coming with lithium, but we have a lot of concern, especially for the public health of our kids… What assurance do we have as parents that this industry won’t generate more pollution?”
Jaime and other community members voiced their concerns to US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and US Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-La Quinta, during a community listening session on Wednesday that was part of the federal government promised outreach in the region that some are now calling “Lithium Valley.”
If I saw big mining companies salivating over where I lived and calling it “Lithium Valley,” I, too, would be worried!
4th Gear: GM Will Also Be Getting Rare Earth Elements Out Of Fort Worth
GM is going to be getting some of that Californian lithium, and now will be set to get some magnet-related rare earth metals out of Texas, as The Detroit News reports, not behind a paywall:
The agreement solidifies the terms of a binding agreement announced by the companies in December. MP Materials will supply US-sourced and manufactured rare earth materials – alloy and finished magnets – for electric motors in more than a dozen models using GM’s new Ultium EV platform. MP is planning a gradual production ramp-up starting in late 2023 with alloy.
The supply agreement is one of several GM has made in the last year to shore up the materials it will need to build 1 million electric vehicles in North America by 2025.
Also in 2021, GM formed a partnership with Controlled Thermal Resources Limited to source lithium from southern California’s Salton Sea. Lithium is a crucial mineral needed to build electric vehicle batteries.
GM is attendance today at a groundbreaking event for an MP facility in Fort Worth, Texas, which will be its first rare earth metal, alloy and magnet manufacturing facility. The facility will have the capacity to produce about 1,000 tons of neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) magnets per year to support the production of about 500,000 EV traction motors, the company says. In addition to EVs, these magnets can be used in robots, wind turbines, drones and defense systems.
How we all feel about EVs is sure to change as all of the mining efforts to produce them comes home!
5th Gear: Honda Chip Shortage Woes Continue
Making cars is hard, both for the current crop of EV startups and even old startups like Honda. The latter is struggling with supply issues, as Reuters reports:
Honda Motor Co.. is planning to cut production by about 50 percent on two lines at one of its Japan factories in early May due to chip shortages and COVID-19 lockdowns, the company said on Thursday.
The factory in Suzuka will also slash production by half during April, expanding the scale of the cutback from an earlier announcement that it would reduce output by about a third.
The company said the persistent semiconductor shortage as well as uncertain geopolitical affairs have caused delays in logistics and parts delivery.
“Uncertain geopolitical affairs” really covers a lot, these days.
Reverse: Strange To Think This Was Once A Radical Effort
Reading up on the environmental movements of the ’60s and’ 70s is always interesting. Bring back car-free Sundays!
Neutral: Today Is My Last Day At Jalopnik!
If you didn’t see elsewhere, I’m off to Road ampersand Track to be the Deputy Editor over there. I leave Jalopnik behind after a little over 10 years. I will say this about working at this site: Jalopnik has given me more opportunities than a young and argumentative blogger could ever dream of. I’ve flown around the world, driven some of the fastest and most interesting cars ever made, met more people than I can ever keep together in a rolodex, been given the resources and leeway to write stories I am proud of. I see that continuing in my absence, with a talented and young staff. That’s what I care about.