Photo/IllutrationNissan Motor Co. President and CEO Hiroto Saikawa answers questions from reporters in Tokyo on May 27. (Takeho Morita)

Hiroto Saikawa, president and CEO of Nissan Motor Co., expressed support for a proposed merger between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) NV and Renault SA, despite concerns Nissan would lose clout from such a deal.

“It’s a good move because the merger will expand the extent of the current alliance,” Saikawa told reporters on the night of May 27 after news broke about Italian-American carmaker’s proposed merger with Nissan’s alliance partner. “It is a positive step toward the future.”

But experts warned that Nissan’s presence would diminish if the FCA joined the existing alliance of Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors Corp.

In 2018, the combined global sales of Renault and the FCA reached 8.72 million units, compared with Nissan’s 5.65 million.

“There are concerns over how much clout Nissan will be able to retain in the alliance,” said Akira Kishimoto, a senior analyst with JP Morgan Securities Japan Co.

Both Renault and the FCA want the two Japanese companies to join their alliance.

As proof, the FCA’s merger proposal dangles a position on the board of a new holding company for a Nissan nominee.

Nissan has rebuffed Renault’s repeated calls for their own merger, which many in the auto industry say is being pushed by the French government, the largest shareholder of Renault, with a 15-percent stake.

The French government’s say in the management of Renault expanded after a law was enacted in France to allow shareholders who register their stocks for two years to double their voting rights.

But the FCA proposal includes a measure intended to reduce the French government’s influence.

Renault is positive about the merger with the FCA and believes the proposal will serve as a tailwind in Renault’s push to merge with Nissan.

A Renault official said the French automaker will simultaneously hold merger talks with the FCA and Nissan.

The official added that the FCA will prove a valuable partner in terms of efforts to merge with Nissan.

Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard is expected to visit Japan for a May 29 meeting of a new entity governing the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Motors alliance.

Auto industry analysts say the main focus of attention at the meeting will be how Senard explains Renault’s merger with the FCA and its relations with Nissan.

(This article was written by Sawaaki Hikita in Paris and Satoshi Kimura and Takeho Morita.)