May 13, 2016 / 6:47 AM / a year ago

Nissan faces challenges with Mitsubishi but won't impose management: Ghosn

Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, speaks during a news conference in Yokohama, Japan, May 12, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

YOKOHAMA, Japan (Reuters) - Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) CEO Carlos Ghosn said restoring Mitsubishi Motors’ (7211.T) credibility with consumers will be his top challenge but that Japan’s second-biggest automaker will not impose its management on the smaller, scandal-hit car maker.

Ghosn’s comments come a day after Nissan announced a planned $2.2 billion investment for a 34 percent controlling stake in Mitsubishi Motors, which is mired in a mileage-cheating scandal. The deal allows Nissan to nominate a third of Mitsubishi’s board and also its leader, prompting speculation of a significant management reshuffle.

The Nissan CEO sought to downplay talk on Friday of wholesale change at Mitsubishi Motors, telling a news conference at Nissan’s headquarters in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, that his company will propose the board members but won’t “impose anybody” on Mitsubishi.

Ghosn also said Mitsubishi Motors Chief Executive Osamu Masuko will remain the “pilot” after the deal is completed.

“The biggest challenge is to support Mitsubishi changing itself and growing and being profitable and restoring its reputation,” he said, adding that winning back consumers’ trust was Mitsubishi Motors’ job, though Nissan would support its efforts.

Nissan shares jumped 4.1 percent on Friday, a day after the news of the deal. Mitsubishi Motors shares, which had surged 16 percent on Thursday, eased 1.7 percent.

The completion of the deal is subject to due diligence. “We don’t want to anticipate on the (results of the) due diligence,” Ghosn said, adding that he is still waiting on the results of the Japanese regulators’ investigation into Mitsubishi Motors.

The transport ministry said on Friday it raided Mitsubishi Motors’ headquarters in Tokyo after allegations that a manager at the company ordered the cheating at a subsidiary that handles fuel economy testing. Mitsubishi Motors confirmed the raid.

Reporting by Minami Funakoshi; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

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