Renault-Nissan Engineering Chief Taking Blame for Emissions Failures

Sales of the Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe zero-emission electric cars haven’t been enough for the automaker to satisfy global emissions rules, and the automaker’s powertrain engineering chief will be replaced over it.

Reuters just reported that Alain Raposo, global head of powertrain engineering at the Renault-Nissan Alliance, will be moved to an advisory role, and a replacement will be announced this week. As emissions regulations tighten up in the world’s largest auto markets, the company’s slow pace of integration is being called to question.

The global automaker doesn’t agree with this assessment.

“The alliance is on track with its overall convergence objectives, including engineering,” said Renault-Nissan spokeswoman Catherine Loubier.

Since the 1999 merger of Renault and Nissan, CEO Carlos Ghosn has been under pressure to move toward common vehicle architectures and engines. The corporate mission has been to find 5.5 billion euros ($5.9 billion) in annual saving by 2018.

The alliance says that 85 percent of engines are already shared in some way. Executives have privately conceded that it ignores inefficiencies and a years-long battle over whose technology will become the Renault-Nissan standard.

“It’s a permanent punch-up – after 17 years we are still unable to think like a single company,” said one of Raposo’s management colleagues. “In powertrain it’s always been hell.”

SEE ALSO:  Renault-Nissan Alliance Shuttling COP22 Delegates in All-Electric Vehicles

The internal strife has been exacerbated by emissions regulation tightening further in the wake of Volkswagen’s diesel emissions cheating scandal. While discovered in the U.S. last year, that scandal has spilled over to several major global markets.

Another problem has come from independent studies that have blamed Renault for making cars with some of the highest real-world nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions. Renault executives have been under pressure as prosecutors have been investigating whether the company has broken European Union law.

Renault-Nissan is having to invest more to curb excessive emissions from current engines. It’s also pushing the company toward accelerating development of cleaner internal combustion engines, and plug-in hybrid powertrains.

“We’re behind on several projects – some engine development schedules are all over the place,” said another manager. “The tighter standards are causing real difficulties, so we’re hiring and doing everything we can, but it’s not enough.”

One development project that failed was realizing late in the game that the next generation of gasoline engines was likely to need particulate filters, which used be reserved exclusively for diesel engines.

“We had thought we could get by without them,” that confidential source said.

Another technology failure has been sharing three-cylinder gasoline engines across the brands. The Renault Clio and Nissan Micra have similarly powered motors and transmissions, but they were separately conceived and developed. While the companies will be sharing three-cylinder engines and a gearbox, it’s too late in the process to impress executive management.

Further complications come from the company’s bailout earlier this year of Mitsubishi Motors after its fuel economy false reporting scandal. The conglomerate is now selling over 10 million new vehicles a year, and the economies of scale are falling further behind.

Reuters reported that Raposo is only the latest in a series of alliance directors to take the blame for the company’s slow progress.

The Renault and Nissan executive committees “have never been capable of converging” technologies in a timely way, a senior manager said. “So they end up punishing the guy underneath.”

Automotive News


More Hybrid News...