Carlos Ghosn is sorry. Really sorry. The chairman and chief executive of Renault appeared on television to apologise, profusely, for wrongly firing three of the carmaker’s top executives two months ago on espionage charges. It turned out the charges were bogus, fabricated by a for-hire gumshoe who played on the gullibility of Renault’s top managers.
Ghosn rebuffed an offer made by the company’s chief operating officer to resign, saying that he didn’t want to add a crisis to another. The company’s board apparently concurred. But all this shows is that Ghosn and Renault still don’t get it.
When the infamous scandal broke, hints that China was the dark force behind the spying enterprise were leaked to the press. And a hapless French industry minister went as far as saying that talking of “corporate warfare” wasn’t an exaggeration.
It’s not like Ghosn and his number two Patrick Pelata were distantly implicated in this major snafu. Pelata monitored the bogus investigation on a day-to-day basis, and Ghosn was convinced that the charges were substantial. Indeed, he publically insisted that he was supervising the whole matter — as if to add credence to the allegations.
Now Ghosn implies that Renault was a victim — powerless prey to unscrupulous con men who milked the company for a few hundred thousand euros.
But the scandal has also exposed major incompetence and serious corporate paranoia in Renault’s top echelons. Whatever happened to simple principles rules such as presumption of innocence, or the importance of due process? Renault might have started by giving the wrongly-implicated executives the chance to answer the allegations.
Ghosn should have accepted Pelata’s resignation, or seen that someone in high authority accepted responsibility. As it stands, only underlings will pay for the consequences. And the offer by Renault to re-hire the three and “restore their honour” sounds hollow. At the very least the company’s board should ponder the wisdom of letting Ghosn continue in his dual role at the head of Renault and its Japanese partner Nissan. It looks like the top man needs a little bit of rest.