PARIS (Reuters) – Renault’s (RENA.PA) board is set to meet later on Tuesday to approve the nomination of Luca de Meo, the former head of Volkswagen’s (VOWG_p.DE) Seat brand, as its next chief executive, two sources familiar with the matter said.
The Italian-born executive, who stepped down from Seat earlier this month, is not due to take up his post at the French carmaker until toward July, due to negotiations around his contract, according to one of the sources.
Renault declined to comment.
De Meo is not expected to face any last minute hurdles in his nomination, and has already won tacit backing from parties including the French government, a Renault shareholder.
His appointment fills one of the major gaps left at the firm as it tries to move past a year of turmoil following the 2018 arrest in Tokyo of former boss-turned-fugitive Carlos Ghosn, and reset its strained alliance with Japan’s Nissan.
Ghosn, who forged and oversaw the Renault-Nissan partnership for almost two decades, has since fled Japan and resettled in Lebanon, from where he has contested the financial misconduct charges against him and said the alliance was at risk of collapse.
De Meo, along with Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard, brought in last January from tire maker Michelin, will have his work cut out to turn around the firm.
Like rivals, Renault is grappling with a downturn in demand, and has said it expects a slight decline in the car market in Europe, Russia and China this year.
The firm has also presented 2020 as a make-or-break year for the alliance with Nissan (7201.T) and is under pressure to deliver on cost savings and joint industrial projects.
Automakers face pressure to meet stringent new emissions targets with less polluting models, and are also competing to produce innovations such as self-driving cars, which require large investments.
De Meo, who speaks French, will be one of a growing handful of outsiders in senior company jobs in France. The 52-year-old started his career at Renault and has worked at Fiat and Audi among other brands.
He is credited with revitalizing sales at Barcelona-based Seat, imbuing it with a more sporty image, though his portfolio will be markedly larger at Renault, whose brands include Dacia and Lada.
Renault’s finance chief Clotilde Delbos has been CEO on an interim basis since last October, when Thierry Bollore, a former Ghosn ally, was ousted by the board.
Reporting by Gilles Guillaume, Writing by Sarah White; Editing by Benoit Van Overstraeten and Mark Potter