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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.

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