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Next: New Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida has been given strict riding orders by the board: “Revitalise the company.”

Dongfeng boss Makoto Uchida named Nissan CEO after another bites the dust

9 Oct 2019

ARMED with a degree in theology from Kyoto University, new Nissan Motor Company CEO Makoto Uchida might well seek divine guidance when he slides into the top role of the troubled company by January 1.


The Japanese-born president of Nissan’s Chinese Dongfeng Motor Company joint venture since last year, Mr Uchida was plucked from a field of 10 candidates to replace Hiroto Saikawa who was unceremoniously dumped as CEO by unanimous vote of the Nissan board last month when it was revealed he had been overpaid as part of a stock payment scheme.


Mr Saikawa had been in the job since 2017 when he replaced his former mentor, Carlos Ghosn, who was fired by Nissan last year after being accused of understating his income and other alleged crimes. He is now under house arrest on bail in Tokyo while awaiting his day in court next year.


Now, Mr Uchida, 53, has been handed the job and asked to straighten up the scandal-ridden company whose profits fell by 94.5 per cent in the first quarter of the 2019 Japanese financial year on the back of a seven per cent global sales slump.


Mr Uchida is seen as something of an outsider, having worked at Nissan only since 2003 after being recruited mid-career from diversified conglomerate Nissho Iwai – a Japanese company with interests in a staggering number of commercial and industrial fields, including international car distribution and mining in Australia.


Mr Uchida is also well known at Nissan partner Renault via his role as vice-president of purchasing for the Renault Nissan Alliance.


It is probably no coincidence that Nissan has also appointed Indian-born Ashwani Gupta as Nissan’s new chief operating officer alongside Mr Uchida. Mr Gupta’s most recent role was COO of Renault-Nissan alliance partner Mitsubishi Motors, but he was formerly general manager of purchasing for Renault India.


The appointments were announced in Japan by Nissan chairman Yasushi Kimura who said in a statement that Mr Uchida was the right leader to drive the business forward.


“We expect Uchida to lead the company as one team, (and) immediately focus on the recovery of the business and revitalise the company,” he said.


The Renault links of Mr Uchida and Mr Gupta indicate the French company, which owns 43 per cent of Nissan, had a say in the appointments which are likely to quell rumours of a potential split in the alliance.


In another appointment announced after the Nissan board meeting in Yokohama, managing executive officer Jun Seki was named executive vice COO, reporting to Mr Gupta.


Mr Seki reportedly was one of the 10 candidates for the top job handed to Mr Uchida. Others apparently included non-Japanese and female candidates, including some from Renault.

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