Renault SA and its alliance partner Nissan Motor Co. have signed a deal with Alphabet Inc.'s self-driving technology unit Waymo to jointly explore driverless car options in their home markets of France and Japan.
The new partnership represents a significant joint move by Renault and Nissan, following months of acrimony in the wake of the arrest and ouster of Carlos Ghosn—the former chairman of both auto makers.
The deal has limited scope and mirrors dozens of similar deals between big legacy auto makers and tech giants like Google parent Alphabet. Renault shares closed up 0.5% in Europe on Thursday. Nissan's shares fell 0.1% in Tokyo trading. The decision was announced after the market there had closed.
The two auto makers this week resolved one particularly public bone of contention relating to Nissan's corporate governance, The Wall Street Journal previously reported. That agreement has gone some way in easing tensions that had scuttled the French car maker's merger talks with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV. The Waymo deal “is designed to bring together the strengths of each party and expand expertise by assessing market opportunities,” Renault said.
It will initially focus on driverless services for people and deliveries of goods in France and Japan but could later expand to other markets, excluding China, the French car maker said. Renault and Nissan will create joint-venture companies in France and Japan dedicated to driverless mobility services, it said.
The compromise over board committee seats paves the way for Nissan to install a new board, a step that Renault executives see as allowing for the possible resumption of merger talks with Fiat Chrysler, according to a person close to Renault. Those discussions foundered as Nissan withheld its support for a tieup and the French government asked for a delay until Nissan was on board—prompting Fiat to withdraw its offer. Renault executives would like to revive talks with the Italian-American car maker in the near future before market conditions change, the person said.
Renault and Nissan hold stakes in each other under an auto-making partnership that stretches back two decades.
BY MAX BERNHARD