Carlos Ghosn has stepped down as chief executive officer of Nissan Motor Company, a position he has held since June 2001, the automaker announced Wednesday. His replacement is 40-year company veteran Hiroto Saikawa, currently (and somewhat confusingly) Nissan’s co-CEO and a representative director. The energetic Ghosn, 62, continues as Nissan chairman, as chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, and as CEO of Renault.
Ghosn also was named chairman of Mitsubishi Motors last December following Nissan’s purchase of a controlling 34-percent of the struggling automaker for $2.2 billion.
With the addition of Mitsubishi, Nissan-Renault expects to sell about 10 million vehicles globally in 2017, which would place it in the same volume league as Volkswagen Group, Toyota Motor Company, and General Motors. VW Group was the biggest automaker globally last year with 10.31 million sold.
“I am confident that the management team I have developed at Nissan over the past 18 years has the talent and experience to meet the company’s operational and strategic goals,” Ghosn said in a prepared statement. “Having recently taken on new responsibilities at Mitsubishi Motors, and taking into consideration the upcoming Nissan general shareholders meeting, I have decided that the time is right for Hiroto Saikawa to succeed me as Nissan’s CEO.”
Nissan formed a strategic alliance with Renault in 1999. Ghosn, then Renault’s executive vice president, took over Nissan as its first non-Japanese leader in 2001 as the company struggled following decades of quick growth. He restructured the company, firing Japanese employees who thought they had jobs for life, and quickly reversed Nissan’s fortunes again.
“There is no problem with a car company that good product cannot solve,” he told auto and business journalists at international auto shows.