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Nissan Americas’ Tavares Named New Renault COO in Wake of Spy Scandal

Renault’s gain could be Nissan’s loss.

by on May.31, 2011

Nissan Americas CEO Carlos Tavares - shown here with the Leaf battery car - will become Renault's new COO.

Carlos Tavares, the chief executive of Nissan Americas, will be heading across the Atlantic to serve as the new chief operating officer of the Japanese maker’s French affiliate, Renault.

The new assignment comes as Renault struggles to shake off the scandal that followed the firing of three senior executives falsely accused of spying for the Chinese.  That brouhaha led to a shake-up of Renault’s top management, including the ouster of COO Patrick Pelata.

The decision to move Tavares back to France has been widely expected, TheDetroitBureau.com first reporting on it more than six weeks ago.  It’s a homecoming of sorts, Tavares having spent 23 years with the French carmaker before being assigned to the U.S. in 2004.

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The move comes at a critical time for Renault, which had been struggling to regain traction in the European market – and grow its overseas base, especially in China – even before the espionage scandal.  The loss of Pelata threatened to leave a significant void in the carmaker’s senior ranks as the former COO was considered a close confidant and ally to Carlos Ghosn, who serves as chief executive officer for both Renault and Nissan.

In a statement, Ghosn described Taveres’ appointment as “a first step in strengthening Renault’s management.” But his reassignment could be “a significant loss” for Nissan Americas, cautions Deutsche Bank’s Kurt Sanger.

The auto analyst describes Tavares as “an influential player and an effective manager (who was) critical in defining a new strategy for the North American operations and for bringing a new sense of energy.”

The fact that Tavares wasn’t reassigned more immediately underscores the challenges the management shake-up creates.  While its two major Japanese rivals have been struggling over the last several years, Nissan has quietly gained ground in many key global markets, especially North and South America.  The expansion of its overseas production base, especially in the Americas, has helped Nissan minimize the impact of Japan’s March 11 natural disaster – at least compared to Toyota and Honda.

Meanwhile, Nissan has been moving ahead with the launch of one of its most critical products in years, the high-image Leaf battery-electric vehicles.  Leaf, which went on sale last December, is just beginning to see a ramp-up in production, with Nissan preparing to add additional assembly capacity at its plant in Smyrna, Tennessee.

As a result, the Americas operation headed by the Portugese-born Tavares was “expect(ed)…to serve a critical role in boosting profitability” at Nissan in the mid-term, said Sanger.

To keep things running smoothly, the Japanese maker is taking a team approach to replacing the well-respected Tavares.

Taking the lead role will be Colin Dodge, who currently serves as executive vice president, Chief Performance Officer, and Chairman of Nissan’s Africa, Middle East, India and European operations.  He will now add Chairman of the Americas to that lengthy list of titles.

Dodge will also get some help managing the new part of his portfolio from Bill Krueger, a one-time Toyota executive who has most recently been in charge of Nissan Americas’ manufacturing, purchasing and supply chain management.  Krueger gets the newly-created post of vice chairman.

Considering the extensive duties, it remains to be seen whether the new org chart structure will remain for long, or whether Krueger, who joined Nissan in 2005, will be moved up if he can prove himself in his new role.

The game of musical chairs shaking up the Renault-Nissan alliance was triggered by a spy scandal that was itself touched off the firing of three top French executives early this year.  An anonymous tip had indicated they were providing information on Renault’s ambitious electric vehicle program to the Chinese.

Initially supported by an internal corporate investigation, the matter blew up on Renault when French government investigators traced the matter back to the company’s own security department, charging several members with trying to shake down the company.  The three ousted managers have since been giving apologies – and substantial cash awards.

Palata, who had taken a high-profile position during the espionage investigation, stepped down from his COO post, some believe, to spare Ghosn who was, nonetheless, sorely embarrassed by the scandal.

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2 Responses to “Nissan Americas’ Tavares Named New Renault COO in Wake of Spy Scandal”

  1. [...] by Zach Bowman (RSS feed) on May 31st 2011 at 2:01PM Renault has a new chief operating officer. Carlos Tavares, formerly the Chief Executive Officer for Nissan Americas, will now fill the void left by former Renault COO Patrick Pelata. Pelata left the French automaker amid a botched spy scandal investigation that saw a rash of Renault executives lose their positions. Taveres has a long history with Renault, having served with the company for 24 years before being assigned to the U.S. with Nissan Americas in 2003. His move back to Renault has been rumored for some time and the company hopes that its new executive can help point sales in a better direction. Meanwhile, back in the U.S., Tavares' old role will be handled by many hands. Colin Dodge will serve as chairman of the Americas in addition to retaining his title as Executive Vice President, Chief Performance Officer and Chairman of Nissan operations in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and India. Dodge will be joined by Bill Krueger, who will now take up the mantle of Vice Chairman. Krueger previously served as the Head of Manufacturing, Purchasing and Supply Chain Management for Nissan. TheDetroitBureau.com reports that Krueger will move farther up the chain should he be able to prove himself in his new role. Click past the break for a look at the full press release. Show full PR text Nissan Americas Announces Senior Leadership Change FRANKLIN, Tenn., May 30, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — Nissan Americas today announced the appointment of Bill Krueger as vice chairman, Nissan Americas, effective June 13. In this newly formed role Krueger will be Nissan Americas' highest-ranking resident executive and will work closely with Colin Dodge, whose appointment as chairman, Management Committee-Americas, was the subject of a separate announcement. In his new role, Krueger will report to Dodge and be responsible for the day-to-day operations of Nissan Americas' business in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Brazil and 37 other Latin American and Caribbean countries. Krueger and Dodge's appointments follow the announcement earlier today that Carlos Tavares, currently chairman, Nissan Americas, will take on a new role as chief operating officer, Renault. "Bill Krueger has demonstrated the business acumen and leadership qualities necessary to take on the added responsibilities required of a resident Vice Chairman," said Dodge. "As I assume Chairman responsibilities for the Americas Bill will be instrumental in managing the day-to-day operational aspects of our business in the region." Most recently Krueger, 46, was senior vice president, Manufacturing, Purchasing, Supply Chain Management and Total Customer Satisfaction for Nissan Americas. In this role he oversaw all manufacturing and supply-chain management functions for Nissan's three plants in the United States (Smyrna and Decherd, Tenn.; and Canton, Miss.) and its two plants in Mexico (Cuernavaca and Aguascalientes). Prior to joining Nissan, Krueger held various management positions at Toyota's manufacturing plants and served as general manager at the Georgetown, Ky., plant. In addition, Krueger held several management roles at General Motors Corporation's Janesville, Wis., assembly plant and at Harley Davidson's Utilimaster Corporation. Krueger earned a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering and computer science from Marquette University and a master of business administration degree from The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He also holds a master's degree in engineering management from the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University. Krueger currently serves on the Committee of Visitors for the School of Engineering at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. He is a director of the Nashville Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. Krueger also serves on the board of directors of the American Red Cross Nashville Area Regional Chapter, the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee and the Anchor Hocking Company. He is also on the executive advisory council for the Automotive Women's Alliance Foundation. [Source: Nissan, TheDetroitBureau.com] [...]

  2. [...] Renault has a new chief operating officer. Carlos Tavares, formerly the Chief Executive Officer for Nissan Americas, will now fill the void left by former Renault COO Patrick Pelata. Pelata left the French automaker amid a botched spy scandal investigation that saw a rash of Renault executives lose their positions. Taveres has a long history with Renault, having served with the company for 24 years before being assigned to the U.S. with Nissan Americas in 2003. His move back to Renault has been rumored for some time and the company hopes that its new executive can help point sales in a better direction. [...]