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Renault COO leaves after leadership ‘spill’

Mutual agreement: Renault says Mr Tavares has left the company to “pursue other personal projects”. Earlier this month he admitted he was unlikely to succeed Mr Ghosn and would instead like to run GM or Ford.

Renault’s Tavares steps down after showing interest in leading rivals like GM, Ford

Renault logo30 Aug 2013

RENAULT chief operating officer Carlos Tavares has left the company, two weeks after he was reported as saying he was interested in heading up General Motors or Ford.

The French auto giant issued a statement overnight that said Mr Tavares had “mutually agreed with Renault to cease as of today his functions of chief operating officer in order to pursue other personal projects”.

Effective immediately, chairman and chief executive Carlos Ghosn will temporarily carry out the duties of COO until an “adaptation” of the management’s organisation is decided.

Mr Tavares has worked for Renault for 32 years, joining the company in 1981 as a test-drive engineer and working his way up through the ranks in key engineering roles before moving into global product strategy and planning for both Renault and alliance partner Nissan.

He became executive vice-president of Nissan and joined the board of directors in 2005, subsequently spending two years as head of Nissan’s operations in the Americas (2009-11) before returning to Renault as COO and second-in-charge next to Mr Ghosn.

He succeeded Patrick Pelata, who was considered a potential successor to the Renault throne before resigning over over his role in a bungled investigation in which three executives were falsely accused of feeding secrets of the company’s electric vehicle development program to China.

In an interview with Bloomberg earlier this month, which coincided with his 55th birthday, Mr Tavares admitted that he was unlikely to succeed 59-year-old Mr Ghosn and revealed that he would be “honoured” to lead one of the American auto giants.

“We have a big leader and he is here to stay,” Mr Tavares said.

“Anyone who is passionate about the auto industry comes to a conclusion that there is a point where you have the energy and appetite for a number-one position.

“My experience would be good for any car company ... Why not GM? I would be honoured to lead a company like GM.

“GM may have other candidates who are good and if it doesn’t happen, that’s okay. I would consider other companies, but the Detroit companies have succession coming.”

The comments fuelled speculation about the succession plans for GM chairman and CEO Dan Akerson, 64, and his Ford counterpart Alan Mulally, who is 68.

Overseas reports today quote a GM spokesman as being adamant that Mr Tavares “is not coming here”, while Ford says it already has succession plans in place for its top executives, including Mr Mulally, but these remain confidential.

Among those touted as a potential candidate for GM CEO is former Holden chairman Mark Reuss, who is currently North America president, while a leading candidate for the number-one job at Ford is COO Mark Fields, who was in Australia with Mr Mulally and other Dearborn top brass earlier this month to smooth over the company’s decision to close its car-making operations here in 2016.

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