Why is ‘alliance’ better than ‘partnership’?

It is easy to be swayed by the slick marketing, in which major companies invest, when they refer to ‘marriages of corporate convenience’, states journalist Iain Robertson, factors that affected both A-Met and ISQA.

Perhaps one of the best known strategic partnerships in the automotive world is that between French Renault and Japanese Nissan. When Messrs Schweitzer and Hanawa, CEOs of their respective firms, signed the historic agreement on the 27th March 1999, little did they know that it would become one of the most enduring and successful deals between two carmakers ever…certainly on the face of things.

Interestingly, the various terms…alliance, strategy, allegiance, partnership…that arose during the formative period of the relationship have assumed significantly greater meaning, as the years have passed. Following an almost inevitable cynicism that arose on the back of several other cosying-up deals struck around the industry, Renault-Nissan’s alliance, according to its harshest critics, should have ended in tears by now. It has survived, even though some cracks in the fabric have been reported recently.

Ford Motor Company set something of a precedent during the decade preceding the Renault-Nissan deal. Snaffling-up various carmakers in its endeavours to become the world’s largest brand and to tip VW Group from its loftier perch were intrinsic to its remit. It was largely fruitful but a disparate range of marques, from Land-Rover to Mazda and Jaguar to Volvo, all possessing their own ideologies and not particularly keen to pursue a Detroit determined corporate route led to infighting that was difficult to eradicate. The cracks were present and could only grow into major divides, which they did.

Volkswagen had always been slightly smarter with its management strategy, although its strict shared platform policy would always provide a glue that was difficult to unlatch. That it used the expertise inherent to each of its brands was also important and Skoda, despite having tolerated years of ridicule, fast became the engineering centre, aided and abetted by Wolfsburg. VW was perceived as a brand saviour. Yet, the recent exhaust emissions debacle, despite the united front established by its corporate HQ, could see an unstitching of the brands, while the parent company tries to shore-up its fiscal and financial defences.

While Renault and Nissan seemed like an unlikely partnership, when the Parisian management team popped across to Japan during the set-up stage, it was shocked by the vast number of highly-remunerated senior managers and directors, very few of whom possessed even the merest hint of car production knowledge, or experience. Even by Gallic standards, drastic action was deemed necessary to resolve Nissan’s maladies. A scythe cut through the payroll and more than 90% of the senior staff was removed.

While the French government still owns a large percentage of Renault and carries a hefty slice of voting rights, it is fortunate that the car company has not been overtly-politicised and appears to be allowed to control its destiny. Both core brands have grown from the relationship that now includes Infiniti and Mitsubishi.

In the UK, we feel the impact of the alliance, from the apparent strength of the Nissan manufacturing plant on Wearside, which has developed from a CKD factory to a full and much-lauded, ultra-efficient manufacturing unit that has raised the car-making bar to reported new heights. Yet, it has come to light that Renault and Nissan have been concealing a number of problems, many of which stem from one brand not knowing what the other is trying to do but further exacerbated by exhaust emissions investigations that involve not just Renault and Nissan but Mitsubishi too.

While many of the more upstanding aspects are shared in the recent collaboration between two independent and distinctly different firms in the West Midlands…Hereford-based A-Met Metrology and Birmingham-based ISQA, fortunately the ‘marriage’ is one of practicality and is not shares-based. It is also fortunate that both companies provide complementary services that are already recognised as being necessary and strong.

However, the use of the word ‘different’ is not strictly true, as both companies are experts in the field of making measurements. ISQA leads the field in Quality Assurance, displaying a fine eye for detail and in picking up on the issues confronted by manufacturing concerns, providing containment, control and solutions. Yet, A-Met takes measurement detailing into the quantum arena with their portable systems and dedicated sub-contract measurement facility.

Both sets of services are happy bed-partners and the resultant strategic alliance means that two associated business operations are able to offer a ‘one-stop-shop’ to their client bases that is unique, convenient, practical and profits-centred, because either company can blend and flow with the other’s operations seamlessly. The combined knowledge becomes invaluable and both time and financial savings are a core attraction to clients.

What lies behind the association is not just convenience, as the management ethos is also shared by its directors and, at a moment in time, when both political and financial insecurity might weigh heavily on smaller enterprises, a sense of tremendous strength and shared integrity creates a more than satisfying end-game. The impact of the ISQA:A-Met strategic alliance will be felt for many years to come. In fact, if you want to see what both firms got up top in Hereford, in January, click here now.

‘Make Quality Count!’

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