Carlos Ghosn, the man heralded with turning Nissan around from near bankruptcy in the late 1990s, is finally stepping down as CEO at the Japanese automaker. His replacement has been named as Hiroto Saikawa, who will take up the reins starting April 1. Saikawa has been with Nissan since 1977 and is currently the automaker’s “chief competitive officer.”
Rather than allow Ghosn to step back, the move is aimed at allowing him to better focus his attention on the expansion and stewardship of the full alliance between Nissan, Renault and more recently Mitsubishi, formed via an interconnected share structure. Ghosn remains Chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance as well as Chairman at each of the three automakers. He also remains CEO of Renault.
“As Nissan's Chairman, I will continue to supervise and guide the company, both independently and within the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance,” Ghosn said in a statement.” This planned change will also allow me to devote more time and energy to managing the strategic and operational evolution and expansion of the Alliance and ensuring that all its members benefit from the competitive advantages that its scale will deliver.”
During Nissan’s acquisition of a controlling stake in Mitsubishi last October, Ghosn hinted at benefits such as economies of scale as well as sharing of R&D and manufacturing capabilities. He also said the Alliance is on track to becoming one of the top three automakers by volume, competing with the likes of General Motors, Toyota and Volkswagen.
Such scale has always been a goal of Ghosn, who is famous in the industry for his company turnaround efforts. In 1996 he turned a struggling Renault into a profitable company in just one year. He did the same at Nissan five years later and at the height of the global financial crisis looked at forming a partnership with one of the Detroit 3 to get a bigger piece of the North American market, though such a deal was never completed.