Renault-Nissan Nears GM Global Sales After Ghosn’s Japan Rescue

  • Alliance posts first worldwide tally since Mitsubishi purchase
  • VW overcame diesel scandal to surpass Toyota last year

The Renault-Nissan Alliance came just short of matching General Motors Co. and joining the ranks of the three-biggest automakers by global sales, after Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn rescued a Japanese peer last year.

Nissan Motor Co., Renault SA and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. combined delivered 9.96 million vehicles last year, the alliance said in an e-mailed statement. The three automakers chaired by Ghosn finished fewer than 4,000 cars and trucks short of GM’s deliveries in 2016 and within about 350,000 units of new worldwide leader Volkswagen AG.

Ghosn emphasized the scale Renault and Nissan would add by coming to the aid of Japanese peer Mitsubishi Motors last year, following a fuel-economy scandal that dates back decades. The alliance is including Mitsubishi Motors in its sales tally despite Nissan owning only about 34 percent of the company.

“The combination of Groupe Renault, Nissan Motor and Mitsubishi Motors creates a new force in the global auto industry,’’ Ghosn, 62, said in the statement.

After taking over as Nissan’s president in 1999, Ghosn restored the struggling company to profitability by breaking up its so-called keiretsu network of suppliers, shutting plants and leveraging the alliance with Renault.

Mitsubishi Rescue

Ghosn may have to put his restructuring skills to work again at Mitsubishi Motors, which is projecting a 202 billion yen ($1.8 billion) loss for the fiscal year ending in March. The Tokyo-based carmaker said last year its management had failed to oversee proper fuel-economy as far back as 1991.

Mitsubishi Motors added 934,013 vehicle sales to the alliance’s total for 2016. Deliveries fell 13 percent last year, driven by sagging confidence in the brand in Japan and weaker demand from Brazil, Russia and the Middle East.

Both Renault and Nissan reported sales gains for 2016. Boulogne-Billancourt, France-based Renault, which owns about 45 percent of Nissan, boosted deliveries by 13 percent to 3.2 million.

At Nissan, sales rose 2.5 percent to a record 5.6 million last year. The Yokohama-based company holds a 15 percent stake in Renault.

The alliance said it remained the world’s top-seller of electric vehicles, selling 94,265 last year. The two have delivered almost 425,000 since the Nissan Leaf went on sale in 2010.

Volkswagen dethroned Toyota Motor Corp. last year to become the world’s top-selling automaker for the first time despite its diesel-cheating scandal. The German automaker delivered a record 10.3 million vehicles in 2016, as Toyota fell short of 10.2 million.

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