TOKYO – Nissan has appointed Makoto Uchida, head of its important China division, to be its next president and CEO, helping the scandal-hit automaker open a new chapter after the arrest of former Chairman Carlos Ghosn and last month's resignation of former CEO Hiroto Saikawa.
Uchida will work alongside Ashwani Gupta from affiliate Mitsubishi Motors, who was named chief operating officer, and Jun Seki, the former head of Nissan in China, who will become deputy COO, Nissan said in a news release on Tuesday.
"The board believes that this arrangement, of a CEO and two COOs, is the best way forward for Nissan right now,” director Masakazu Toyoda said at a press conference. "They can lift each others' game, support one another, be transparent and make fair decisions."
"All three are global citizens, attach importance to the [Renault-Nissan] alliance, and are motivated to speed decision making" said Toyoda, the director in charge of Nissan’s nomination committee
Uchida, 53, ushers in a younger generation of leaders many insiders hope pave a new path. He is known for close ties to top shareholder Renault and for a frank, straight-talking manner.
Uchida, Nissan’s third boss in as many years, will take the helm from Yasuhiro Yamauchi, who has been serving as interim president since Saikawa stepped down Sept. 16.
Uchida brings a sense of stability and experience to the post as Nissan struggles to reverse plunging profits, rebuild strained relations with top shareholder Renault and recover from the legal wrangling over Ghosn, who is indicted on four charges of alleged financial misconduct in Japan.
Uchida has run Nissan’s China operations since 2018. China has contributed almost a third of the company's operating income in recent years.
Uchida joined Nissan from Nissho Iwai in 2003, and has the favor of Renault because of his collaboration with the French automaker on joint procurement. He has also worked for Renault Samsung in South Korea. He studied theology at Doshisha University, an unusual background for someone in the auto industry.
Uchida will need to address deteriorating profits as well as executing a massive restructuring. a will be expected to work together
He will be expected to work closely with Gupta, a former Nissan and Renault executive who is currently Mitsubishi's chief operating officer.
The new collective leadership team is a contrast to Ghosn's autocratic style.