Photo/IllutrationFrom left, Renault SA CEO Thierry Bollore, Nissan Motor Co. President Hiroto Saikawa and Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard (Provided by Renault SA)

Nissan Motor Co. said May 17 it appointed the Renault SA chief as a board member, a move likely to fuel merger talks between the automakers and further push the Nissan president into a corner.

The French automaker, the largest shareholder of Nissan, has apparently requested that Renault CEO Thierry Bollore be placed on the Nissan board. Renault will have two officials on Nissan’s board, the same as the Japanese company.

Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard was named a Nissan board member when the company held an extraordinary shareholders’ meeting in April. Later that month, Senard suggested a management integration of the two companies, but Nissan has rejected the idea.

Bollore’s position on the board will give him a say in management from a standpoint of bolstering Renault’s profits. The addition of Bollore will also give the French government, which owns the largest stake in Renault, more influence in the auto alliance.

The new management lineup of 11 board members was presented to a special Nissan board meeting on May 15. The list was compiled by a panel comprising outside board members and other officials.

The company plans to seek approval for the new lineup at a regular shareholders’ meeting in late June. The number of board members increased by three.

With the larger Renault presence, Hiroto Saikawa, who will remain on the board as president and CEO of Nissan, could have his hands full fending off the integration plan.

He already faces the challenge of turning around Nissan’s performance. The automaker just posted a sharp plunge in profits following poor sales in the U.S. market.

And not all of Nissan employees are rallying behind Saikawa for leadership.

He had been seen as a unifying force at Nissan following the arrest of former Chairman Carlos Ghosn over suspected financial misconduct.

But that image is fading, and some say Saikawa should assume responsibility as Nissan’s top official for not taking action against Ghosn sooner.

The number of outside board members will be raised from the current three to seven, giving them a majority on the board. The increase is intended to strengthen oversight of Nissan’s governance.

Masakazu Toyoda, chairman of the Institute of Energy Economics Japan and a former bureaucrat with the industry ministry, and Keiko Ihara, a female race car driver, will stay on as outside board members.

In addition to Saikawa, Yasuhiro Yamauchi, who assumed the post of chief operating officer on May 16, will join the board from Nissan.

Toshiyuki Shiga, who was replaced by Yamauchi as COO, will step down from the board.

The chairman of the board will later be selected from among the outside board members.