Ghosn cedes Nissan CEO role to focus on alliance with Renault, Mitsubishi
By Naomi Tajitsu and Chang-Ran Kim
TOKYO (Reuters) - Nissan Motor Co (7201.T: Quote) said Carlos Ghosn will step aside as CEO after leading the company for 16 years, allowing him to concentrate on deploying his cost-cutting expertise across its alliance with Renault SA (RENA.PA: Quote) and newly added Mitsubishi Motors Corp (7211.T: Quote).
In handing over the helm to Hiroto Saikawa, a company veteran of 40 years, Ghosn ends years of speculation over when he would relinquish the top job at Japan's No. 2 automaker amid investor concerns that he was stretching himself too thin.
Bringing Mitsubishi into the alliance last year has put the group's annual combined sales at 9.3 million vehicles - close in size to industry leaders Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T: Quote) and Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE: Quote).
That has brought new opportunities to benefit from scale but also the challenge of balancing the interests of all three automakers - particularly at a time when progress in plans to integrate Nissan and Renault further has been slow.
Ghosn, 62, will continue to be chairman at Nissan, a position he also holds at Renault and Mitsubishi. But he will remain CEO at Renault and heavily involved in the company, an indication of the depth of problems he still sees at the French automaker.
"There are still lots of things to be done inside the company in order to make its growth sustainable and lasting and solid," he told Reuters in an interview.
While he did not elaborate on the issues he planned to tackle, deeper capital ties with Nissan have been stymied by the French government's lifting of its stake in Renault to around 20 percent with little warning to Ghosn or the board.
Tightening emissions regulations have also exposed strains in the Nissan-Renault alliance as plans to integrate their engines and gearboxes have moved much slower than management had hoped for. Continued...