By selecting Makoto Uchida as the automaker's CEO, Nissan's board has gone with someone slightly at odds with its traditional Japanese corporate culture.
Uchida, 53, joined Nissan mid-career in 2003, unlike most top Japanese executives, who spend their entire careers at one company.
He has close ties to Nissan's top shareholder Renault and has a frank, straight-talking manner that has marked him as an outsider.
Known for his unflagging work ethic and relentless focus on cost control, Uchida was described by one long-time associate who spoke on condition of anonymity as a "foreigner with a Japanese face" because he is direct and to the point in conversations.
Uchida is a "Japanese person who isn't really Japanese inside. Very direct in his language, to the point, easy to understand," the associate said.
Uchida rose through ranks in purchasing and procurement and is steeped in cost control.
He is extremely proficient in English and worked with Renault, which owns 43.4 percent of Nissan, on alliance procurement.
Two key things for Nissan mark him as an outsider.
- Unlike other top executives, he started his career outside of Nissan, having joined from Nissho Iwai, now part of trading house Sojitz.
- He also graduated from Doshisha University in Kyoto, where he studied theology. Many top executives in Japan come from the University of Tokyo, and often study law.
As such he is seen as a "tozama," a lord who was considered an outsider in feudal Japan, the associate said.
Uchida also has overseas experience after working for Renault Samsung in South Korea.
Uchida will be joined by newly appointed Chief Operating Officer Ashwani Gupta, currently COO of junior partner Mitsubishi Motors, and new deputy COO Jun Seki, a former Nissan China boss, in trying to revive a business hit by plunging profits, management scandal and tensions with Renault.
Directors at Nissan, including those from Renault, voted unanimously in favor of the two executives, a source familiar with the matter said.
How Uchida will turn the company around - particularly its business in the United States - and repair ties with Renault will now be a focus for investors.
"The biggest business challenge for Nissan is speeding up," the head of Nissan's nominations committee, Masakazu Toyoda, told a news conference on Tuesday.
"Speedy decision making is a challenge that Uchida raised, and to this end he said that he wants to empower people as much as possible, so we decided to ask Uchida to take on the CEO role." Toyoda said.
One source close to Renault described the selection as "a victory for the alliance", saying that both Uchida and Gupta knew the business and were ready to help Nissan recover.