NASHVILLE — A visible hand behind the choice of a European Renault executive to run Nissan in North America is Carlos Ghosn, chairman of Nissan Motor Co. and CEO of Renault and the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance.
Ghosn's goal: Step up the cross-fertilization of the three automakers.
Denis Le Vot, a Frenchman who joined Renault in 1990 and has a deep background in the European and Russian auto industry, will succeed Jose Munoz as Nissan's top North American leader, effective Jan. 16.
But Le Vot, 52, will report to Munoz, who also is Nissan's global chief performance officer. Munoz took a hands-on role in identifying Le Vot as his replacement over the past year of searching.
Le Vot will take Munoz's place at Nissan North America's headquarters here after a career focused on Renault's diverse operations in Western Europe, Eastern Europe and Russia.
Ghosn is pressing for more vehicle platform sharing among Renault Nissan and Mitsubishi, as well as more technology sharing and more shared leadership experience.
Renault and Nissan have been partners since 1999. Their alliance has been a boon of profit sharing for the independent corporations. But Ghosn has been frank in the last two years that their relationship has not reaped the rewards of synergy that he believes are possible.
Le Vot is currently senior vice president and chairman of the Eurasia region for Groupe Renault.
He became a member of Renault's management committee in 2015, and in 2016, a director of the Russian automaking giant AvtoVAZ, which is majority-owned by Renault.
Munoz has run North America as a strong, hands-on chairman since January 2014, overseeing every aspect of Nissan's business here, from sales and marketing to manufacturing planning, and meeting regularly with Nissan and Infiniti dealers in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
Munoz was tasked with the difficult and controversial mission of raising Nissan and Infiniti's combined U.S. market share to 10 percent by March 31 of this year — a goal he achieved by a whisker despite criticism and warnings from competitors, dealers and outsiders around the industry.
Munoz's role as the automaker's global performance chief, which he was promoted to in late 2016, requires him to travel the world, overseeing the results of every region, brand and product initiative.