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Renault chairman 'disappointed' over failed Fiat Chrysler merger, blames French government

Kathleen Joyce

Renault’s chairman expressed his frustration Wednesday with the French government for resisting a merger deal proposed by rival carmaker Fiat Chrysler.

Jean-Dominique Senard said at a shareholders' meeting in Paris that, “I have rarely seen a merger proposal that could give so much positive synergy, incredibly validating and robust.”

Senard said everyone had approved the plan "with enthusiasm" except one. Board members from Renault's alliance member, Nissan, abstained but in a "very positive way."

Senard said the French government, which is Renault's biggest shareholder with a 15% stake, had not shared his analysis of the benefits of the merger "at this stage."

"I can frankly say that disappoints me," he said.

Senard said French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire was the one who “suggested” the company “approach Fiat a few months ago,” Bloomberg reported.

“We were captivated by this project,” he said.

The chairman said he was open to discussing new talks and said a merger proposal “remains in my head potentially remarkable and exceptional.”

Earlier this month, negotiations between the two firms collapsed amid resistance from the French government and concerns from Nissan. The deal would have created the world’s third largest auto manufacturer and combined Chrysler’s lucrative Jeep and Ram pickup truck brands with Renault’s advancements in emissions-free and self-driving vehicles. But the role of Nissan, Renault's longtime alliance partner, was unclear and the French government wanted more time to sort out the details. Fiat Chrysler pulled the proposal, citing political conditions in France.

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Senard was appointed the chairman of Nissan in January following the arrest of the company's former chairman Carlos Ghosn last November in Tokyo. Ghosn is no longer with the company. Senard said one of his goals was to make sure relations between Renault and Nissan improved.

Answering questions from shareholders on the merger failure, Senard said the wider industry context was critical, notably looming rivalry from the fast-growing Chinese auto industry.

"We face a period in which the blossoming of the Chinese industry will probably translate into a form of tsunami" in our region, Senard said.

Fox Business’ Joseph Williams and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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