Renault has called a board meeting to replace chairman and chief executive Carlos Ghosn, in a move that may begin to ease tensions with alliance partner Nissan after his arrest in Japan for alleged financial misconduct.
The board, which meets tomorrow, will consider the proposed appointment of outgoing Michelin boss Jean-Dominique Senard as chairman and the promotion of Ghosn's deputy Thierry Bollore to CEO, three sources said.
Renault confirmed an emergency board meeting was planned for tomorrow, but a spokesman did not respond to questions about its agenda or Ghosn's replacement.
The decision comes two months after Ghosn's November 19 arrest and swift dismissal as Nissan chairman.
It turns a page on his two decades at the helm of the partnership he transformed into a global carmaking giant, following Renault's acquisition of a near-bankrupt Nissan in 1999.
Ghosn has been charged with failing to disclose more than $80m in additional Nissan compensation for 2010-2018 that he had arranged to be paid later.
Nissan director Greg Kelly and the company itself have also been indicted.
Both men deny the deferred pay agreements were illegal or required disclosure.
Ghosn has also denied a separate breach of trust charge over personal investment losses he temporarily transferred to Nissan in 2008. Nissan has said it takes the matter seriously and pledged to improve corporate governance.
Ghosn has now agreed to resign from Renault, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.
But this came only after the French government, its biggest shareholder, called for leadership change and his bail requests were rejected by the Japanese courts.
Senard, 65, now faces the immediate task of soothing relations with Nissan, which is 43.4%-owned by Renault.
Since Ghosn's arrest, Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa has sought to weaken Renault's control and resisted its attempts to nominate new directors to the Japanese car maker's board.
Nissan currently owns a 15% non-voting stake in its French parent and 34% in Mitsubishi Motors, a third major partner in their manufacturing alliance.
Once its new management is settled, French officials want work to resume on a new ownership structure cementing the partnership - which Ghosn had been mandated to explore when his Renault contract was renewed last year with government backing.
Nissan is wary of any such move.
In an interview last week, Saikawa acknowledged shareholders' concerns that the current structure undervalues their investment, but added that changing it was "really not the current priority".
Earlier, Carlos Ghosn's latest request for bail was rejected by a Tokyo court, despite the ousted Nissan chairman offering to wear an electronic ankle tag in an unusual bid to win release after two months of detention for alleged financial crimes.
The ruling, widely anticipated, raises the likelihood that the 64-year-old executive will remain in custody until his trial.
Ghosn was almost immediately ousted from the chairmanship of Nissan and Mitsubishi after his initial arrest on November 19.
He has been officially charged for under-reporting his salary for eight years up to March 2018 and temporarily transferring personal financial losses to Nissan's books. Ghosn denies the charges.
The court did not give a reason for the denial. Bail is rarely granted for defendants in Japan without a confession.
Ghosn's latest bail request had also included an offer to hire guards to monitor him and a promise to remain in Tokyo, where he has leased an apartment.
He offered to post stock he owns in Nissan as collateral, his spokeswoman said.
An earlier request for bail was denied last week due to concerns the executive, who holds French, Lebanese and Brazilian citizenship, was a flight risk, and that he may tamper with evidence if released.
In a statement released yesterday, Ghosn repeated his intent to clear his name in court.
"I will attend my trial not only because I am legally obligated to do so, but because I am eager to finally have the opportunity to defend myself," he said.
"I am not guilty of the charges against me and I look forward to defending my reputation in the courtroom," he added.
The arrest of the once-feted executive who orchestrated the turnaround of Nissan two decades ago, has clouded the future of the partnership between Nissan and Renault.
Ghosn had pushed for a deeper tie-up between Nissan and Renault, including possibly a full merger, despite strong reservations at the Japanese firm.
Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa said yesterday it was not the time to discuss revising the partners' complicated capital ties.
Local media have reported that a French government delegation has informed Tokyo that it would seek an integration of Renault and Nissan, most likely under the umbrella of a single holding company.
Renault owns a 43.4% stake in Nissan, which in turn holds a non-voting 15% stake in Renault. The French government owns a 15% voting stake in Renault.
Nissan has been conducting an internal probe into misconduct by Ghosn.
It believes he misused company funds for personal purposes, including payments related to his compensation, his residences dotted around the globe, and payments to family members, people with knowledge of the issue have told Reuters.