Carlos Ghosn, who revived Nissan, steps aside as CEO, to remain as chairman
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Carlos Ghosn, who revived Nissan, steps aside as CEO, to remain as chairman

Carlos Ghosn is stepping aside as the chief executive of Nissan Motor, more than 15 years after he took control of the Japanese automaker and helped save it from collapse, becoming in the process a rare and celebrated foreign executive in Japan.

business Updated: Mar 10, 2017 11:05 IST
Carlos Ghosn,Nissan Motors,Renault
Chief executive of Nissan Motor, Carlos Ghosn will step aside (Reuters file photo)

Nissan chief executive Carlos Ghosn, credited with reinventing the once nearly bankrupt Japanese automaker, said on Thursday he is quitting his post to focus on overhauling rival Mitsubishi Motors, but will stay on as chairman.

Ghosn, 62, who also heads up French automaker Renault, will hand over the CEO title to Hiroto Saikawa, who is currently co-chief executive with Ghosn, on April 1.

Among a handful of foreign-born CEOs at Japanese firms, Ghosn earned the nickname Le Cost Killer for his aggressive restructuring at Nissan starting in the late nineties.

Last year, he appointed Saikawa, Nissan’s then number two executive, as his co-CEO at the maker of the Altima sedan and X-Trail sport utility vehicle so he could focus on crisis-hit Mitsubishi’s turnaround.

Japan’s number two automaker threw Mitsubishi a lifeline in May when it announced plans to buy a one-third stake in the automaker for about $2.2 billion, as it wrestled with a mileage-cheating scandal that hammered sales.

Two of the affected vehicle models were being made for Nissan, which was the first to uncover problems with the fuel economy data.

Nissan’s management change announced Thursday will be formalised at Nissan’s annual shareholder meeting in June, it said.

“Having recently taken on new responsibilities at Mitsubishi Motors, and taking into consideration the upcoming Nissan general shareholders meeting, I have decided that the time is right for Hiroto Saikawa to succeed me as Nissan’s CEO,” Ghosn said in a statement.

Ghosn will remain CEO of Renault -- which holds a more than 40 percent stake in Nissan -- and chairman of the three automakers.

Nissan Motor Co CEO Carlos Ghosn delivers a speech during a presentation at the Tokyo Motor Show. (AP file photo)

The reshuffle would allow Ghosn to “focus on the group’s alliance” with Renault and Mitsubishi, and was not linked to health or any other problems, Nissan spokeswoman Keiko Hoshino told AFP.

“As Chairman of all three Alliance companies, and as Chief Executive Officer of the Renault Group, Mr Ghosn wishes to focus more of his attention on the expansion and stewardship of the alliance,” Nissan said.

Renault came to the rescue of a nearly bankrupt Nissan in 1999 and parachuted in the Brazil-born Ghosn, who set about slashing costs and jobs in a huge corporate overhaul.

In 2014, a string of defections by top Nissan executives reignited longstanding questions about who would succeed Ghosn as chief executive.

On Thursday, Nissan’s Tokyo-listed shares slipped 0.67 percent to 1,111 yen ($10) in morning trade.

Analysts said the impact of Ghosn’s announcement would be limited.

“He (Ghosn) is a busy man. He may stay a bit further away from Nissan, but as long as he has the right to represent the company the effect will be limited,” said Toshihiko Matsuno, chief strategist at SMBC Friend Securities.

“But as the announcement came just before the stock market opened, investors sold the stock as a reaction based on first impressions.”

First Published: Feb 23, 2017 12:42 IST