The Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance has promoted Hadi Zablit to the general secretary of the Alliance. This is to fill the void left by the sudden arrest and subsequent ouster of long term chief Carlos Ghosn a year ago.
The 49-year old Zablit holds joint Lebanese and French citizenship. He started as an engineer with Renault in 1994, later moving to Boston Consulting Group. He returned to Renault in 2017.
Zablit’s appointment comes at a crucial time for the Alliance. Ghosn ran it for decades, ruling as a sort of chieftain calling the shots in the group. His sudden departure caused tremendous friction between the partners and led to research, development and investment paralysis. This at a time when the entire auto industry is in turmoil, with technologies such as electric vehicles disrupting the established order of things.
Alliances between automakers have also become more important, as these enabled carmakers to share the cost of research, development and manufacturing of common, key components. So while the Alliance members started pulling in different directions, rival Fiat Chrysler announced a merger with PSA, maker of Peugeot and Citroën. This new group would be the world’s fourth-biggest, surpassing General Motors.
Zablit’s immediate task would be to steer the three partners back into optimal cooperation, maximise efficiencies and take bold and decisive steps to regain dominance in this disrupted industry.
Unlike the somewhat autocratic rule of Ghosn, the Alliance under Zablit will aim for greater consensus-based decision-making by the heads of the three companies. Jean-Dominique Senard, chairman of Renault, will remain as chairman of the Alliance’s Operating Board and Zablit will report to this Board and the three CEOs.
Zablit will be helped in this endeavour by the recent departure of Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa. Saikawa and Senard had a famously acrimonious relationship, which made cooperation difficult. Makoto Uchida, previously head of Nissan China, took over from Saikawa. According to reports Senard and Uchida have a much better relationship, both on a personal level and in business.
Why are these boardroom moves so important? They will affect your favourite car brands like Renault. Keep in mind, more than a dozen joint Renault-Nissan projects have stalled since Ghosn’s departure. Only by working together can the Alliance partners afford the enormous investment in autonomous driving, AI and related technologies. Vehicle technology is at a watershed moment right now. Those companies who cannot stay in the race will fade into obscurity and eventually fail.