Ghosn will focus on Renault, Mitsubishi; steps down as Nissan CEO
TOKYO -- Carlos Ghosn, the long-serving chief executive who rescued Nissan Motor from bankruptcy, is stepping down as CEO, having nearly finished his latest business plan and driven the Renault-Nissan Alliance to new heights with the acquisition of Mitsubishi Motors.
Ghosn, who joined Nissan in 1999 from Renault and became Nissan’s CEO two years later, will retain his position as chairman of the Japan’s second-biggest automaker, the company said in a statement Thursday in Tokyo. Hiroto Saikawa, who currently serves as co-CEO and is a year older than the 62-year-old Ghosn, will become sole chief executive.
The changes are effective April 1.
Ghosn will also retain his roles as chairman and CEO of Renault and of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, spokesman Jonathan Adashek said. And he will also stay on as chairman of Mitsubishi, a company brought into the Alliance last October through Nissan’s purchase of a controlling stake.
At that time, Ghosn promoted Saikawa to the role of Nissan’s co-CEO.
Ghosn said his new responsibilities at Mitsubishi warranted the full handover to Saikawa. “As Nissan’s Chairman, I will continue to supervise and guide the company, both independently and within the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance,” Ghosn said in a statement.
“This planned change will also allow me to devote more time and energy to managing the strategic and operational evolution and expansion of the Alliance and ensuring that all its members benefit from the competitive advantages that its scale will deliver,” Ghosn said.
The announcement shifts full control of Nissan to the Japanese veteran, as Ghosn steps back to more of an oversight role over an expansive automotive empire. The acquisition of Mitsubishi catapulted the Alliance to the No. 4 spot in global auto sales behind Volkswagen, Toyota and General Motors, as Ghosn delivered on his promise to achieve scale.
Ghosn hands over the reins as Nissan concludes its Power 88 mid-term business plan.
Saikawa will now be in charge of drawing up the next mid-term roadmap, which is expected to be announced sometime this year, Adashek said. It was too soon to rate Ghosn’s success in accomplishing the goals of Power 88. The mid-term plan officially runs through March 31, he said.
While Ghosn came close to achieve many of his targets, key goals are still unmet. Nissan hasn’t quite clinched the 10 percent U.S. market share it set out to achieve, nor the 8 percent global market share. It is also on track to miss its 8 percent operating profit margin target.
But through the addition of Mitsubishi, the Alliance’s global volume surged by 934,013 vehicles to total 9.96 million units in 2016, making it the world’s fourth-largest auto group.
The Mitsubishi tie-up, finalized Oct. 20, completed Nissan’s 237 billion-yen ($2.29 billion) purchase of a controlling 34 percent stake in Mitsubishi.
It also unleashed the continuing cascade of executive changes.
Saikawa is expected to now run Nissan independently as his own boss. That too fits the intent of Ghosn, who has said he prefers a Japanese successor at the helm of Nissan.
But it is unclear how much longer he may remain on the job. At age 63, Saikawa is also approaching retirement age.
Saikawa joined Nissan in 1977 and served as its chief competitive officer from 2013 to 2016. Before that he had roles as the chairman of the Management Committees of the Americas and Europe, as well as the executive vice president of purchasing.
He also served as a board member of Renault between 2006 and 2016.