Renault Nissan: The Challenge of Sustaining Change
The case discusses the story of Nissan’s miraculous turnaround after Renault decided to invest in the company. The automobile industry had just begun another wave of consolidation, and many industry leaders believed that size was crucial for survival. This conclusion led to several mergers and acquisitions that produced varying results. The deal concluded between Renault and Nissan was remarkable because it was not billed or designed as an acquisition or even a joint venture. It was structured as an alliance, emphasizing the fact that both companies would have their own separate identities in the marketplace and separate executive committees that would run their strategy. However, the benefits were expected to originate in cross-company synergies, ranging from design to manufacturing and logistics to R&D.
The case offers a rich description of the critical competitive elements that characterized the industry at the time the deal was signed. It also provides a good background on the strengths and weaknesses associated with each of the two companies before getting into the details associated with creating the turnaround plan and its implementation. The study paints a very good picture of the internal challenges that Carlos Ghosn, the incoming leader from Renault, faced in implementing the significant changes that were called for. It particularly emphasizes people-related issues such as performance management, creating change in a tradition-bound culture, the weight of administrative heritage and its impact on performance management, and other related issues. Given the global nature of the setting, the cross-cultural angles provide additional insights into the challenges leaders face when given a mandate for change. The case ends with a description of Renault and Nissan, both of which reported poor performance in late 2007. Ghosn had been at the helm of both firms for some time already, and was finding it difficult to sustain the momentum behind the change.
The case may be used with a variety of audiences. It works very well with executive audiences who can easily identify with the pluses and minuses of administrative heritage and its role in strategy implementation. It also works well with advanced strategy students at the graduate level seeking to specialize in global strategy.