TOKYO -- As Carlos Ghosn hands him the CEO title at a much improved, more profitable and increasingly powerful Nissan Motor, Hiroto Saikawa will have to tackle several lingering weak points.
Saikawa, Ghosn's longtime loyal No. 2, has spent 40 years at Nissan in multiple executive roles. The Nissan lifer knows the company is radically improved from the wreck Ghosn parachuted into in 1999. But as Nissan returns to Japanese managerial control for the first time in nearly two decades, Saikawa also knows there is much unfinished business.
- The post-Ghosn Nissan needs to reassert its lead in electric vehicles as rivals are piling into the segment with product innovations.
- Nissan must bolster its flailing Datsun brand to capture opportunities in emerging markets.
- And Nissan must re-energize its pint-sized Infiniti luxury brand, which is still struggling to gain global traction.
Additionally, Saikawa's Nissan must find ways to cooperate with troubled Mitsubishi Motors Corp. without being dragged down by its new partner's problems. And Nissan is still hungry to overcome a seemingly unshakable image as a second-tier player that forces the carmaker to shell out more incentives than rivals.
"Saikawa's biggest job will be cleaning up that mess," said Tatsuo Yoshida, a former Nissan employee who is a senior auto analyst at Sawakami Asset Management Inc. in Tokyo.