While limited in what he could say for legal reasons, a clearly emotional Saikawa was humbled, apologetic and at times brutally honest when issuing his statement and answering a series of questions from reporters.
Having laid out the three areas in which Nissan had found ‘serious misconduct’ by Ghosn and Kelly, Saikawa offered his “deep apologies”, promising “immediate and fundamental” steps to prevent such incidents happening again.
While Saikawa was speaking in Japan with his words translated, his emotion was clear – as was his anger. At one point, he said: “Beyond being sorry, I feel big disappointment and frustration and despair. I feel despair, indignation and resentment”, adding that people “will feel the same way” once all the details emerge.
Again, it’s hard to describe Saikawa admitting to feeling despair and resentment without using the term ‘extraordinary’. This went far beyond the sort of perfunctory apology and ‘wait and see’ attitude you might expect from a press conference such as this.
But Saikawa wasn’t finished, expressing his personal opinion that Ghosn’s concentration of power within the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance (the 64-year-old is chairman of all three firms and the alliance) was a key factor in enabling the ‘irregularities’ the firm has unearthed. That was a pointed criticism of how the alliance structure allowed one person to become chairman, and effectively in day-to-day charge, of three technically separate car firms.
He criticised Nissan’s “weak” corporate governance structure, which put so much power in Ghosn’s hands without checks in place and meant the alleged wrongdoing couldn’t be detected. While Saikawa said that Nissan would work “closely” with its Alliance partners on the future, he said the firm would introduce a “more sustainable structure”.
His criticism about the concentration of power within the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance was significant, hinting at some of the tensions that exist within – especially given that, despite Ghosn's multiple roles, the alliance remains made up of technically separate firms (albeit with stakes in each other), in contrast to, say, the singularly owned Volkswagen Group (although, within that group, each brand is run by separate management teams).
As things stand at the time of writing, Ghosn officially remains chairman of Renault, although that board is due to meet shortly to discuss his future. What happens to Ghosn, and how his multiple positions are filled within the various Alliance companies, will have a significant impact on the whole car industry.
There are plenty of other developments to consider, from what happens to Ghosn (whose current location is unknown following his arrest), to whether Japanese authorities singled him out as a foreign head of a major Japanese firm.
Indeed, the shockwaves and impact of Ghosn’s ousting from Nissan and arrest will be felt within the industry for years. But that’s the long term: for now, it’s time to reflect on what has been an absolutely remarkable day.
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