Carlos Ghosn has stepped down as CEO of Nissan, giving up day-to-day running of the firm to concentrate on revitalising Mitsubishi, which he recently added to the Renault-Nissan Alliance with the purchase of a 34% stake in the firm.
Ghosn, 62, will remain chairman of Nissan, a position he also holds at Renault and Mitsubishi. He is also CEO of Renault and has pledged to stay in that role while a long-term plan is established for the firm.
Ghosn will be replaced as CEO at Nissan by Hiroto Saikawa, 63. Saikawa left Tokyo University in 1977 to join Nissan and has worked there ever since, running American and European operations as well as overseeing global purchasing, manufacturing, supply chain management, research and customer satisfaction as chief competitive officer. He has also been on Renault’s board for the past decade.
Ghosn said: “There’s a point in time where you have to be realistic about how many things you do and you can do well. This is the trigger. There’s a moment when you have to pass the baton to someone else. I’ve always said I would love to have a Japanese to be my successor and Saikawa-san is somebody I have been grooming for many years.”
Ghosn took over as chief operating officer at Nissan in 1999 and is credited for turning round the once struggling firm, returning it to profitability initially through cost cutting - earning himself the nickname ‘Le Cost Killer’ and then investment in highly innovative products, including the sector-busting Nissan Qashqai.
The Renault, Nissan, Mitsubishi alliance makes it the third biggest car maker in the world by volume, behind Volkswagen and General Motors, with deliveries of just less than 10 million cars in 2016.
Speaking at the announcement, Ghosn confirmed that the first result of the three-way alliance between Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi would be for the brands to launch a budget electric car in China on a shared platform.