Renault's No. 2 man was forced to quit Monday after criticism from the French government over the wrongful dismissal of three employees for alleged espionage. Pierre Alanche, author of a book on Renault, tells FRANCE 24 his departure is bad news.
Patrick Pélata, the right-hand man of CEO Carlos Ghosn, stood down on Monday after the French government called for heads to roll at Renault over the handling of its embarrassing spy scandal.
As chief operating officer, Patrick Pélata was No. 2 to high-powered chief executive Carlos Ghosn. In charge of day-to-day operations since 2008, the French engineer and former communist sympathiser had been working for Renault and its Japanese partner Nissan since 1984.
Renault, which is 15% state owned, was forced to admit in March that it had wrongly dismissed three high-ranking employees over alleged espionage charges. Accused of leaking secret information about electric car technology to competitors, the three were cleared when it turned out that Renault had been set up.
On Monday, French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde delivered a scathing critique of the handling of the affair, calling the company’s management style “dysfunctional” and insisting that those responsible be sacked. The same day, it was announced that Pélata would stand down from his position, but remain within the company.
FRANCE 24 talked to Pierre Alanche, a former Renault employee and author of “Renault, côté cour” (Renault, the Inside Story), a book about his experiences working for the French auto-maker.
FRANCE 24: Is Patrick Pélata’s decision to leave bad news for Renault?
Pierre Alanche: Certainly. Patrick Pélata was at Renault for a quarter of a century, working his way through every department. He was close to Carlos Ghosn – they were classmates at university – and also one of the few executives to place more importance on welfare than industry.
F24: How was he viewed by workers at Renault?
Pierre Alanche: Pélata was the only one who dared to stand up to Carlos Ghosn. He was never too scared to contradict the big boss and question his decisions. For the most part, they shared the same vision for the group.
F24: If that’s the case, why did the company accept his resignation?
Pierre Alanche: Carlos Ghosn did not want to lose his right-hand man. He’s convinced that Pélata is innocent of any wrongdoing. However, both the public and the government want to see heads roll, and Pélata is the only sufficient sacrifice. The other choice would be Ghosn himself, but he’s considered the cement between Renault and Nissan, so losing him is not an option.