Nissan is struggling to right itself in the wake of the Carlos Ghosn scandal Photo: AFP
business

New Nissan CEO brings global outlook but faces uphill task

15 Comments
By Kyoko Hasegawa and Etienne Balmer

Nissan's new chief executive Makoto Uchida is an insider with a global outlook, but he faces an uphill struggle to right the Japanese automaker still reeling from the Carlos Ghosn scandal.

Uchida, 53, was named on Tuesday to replace Hiroto Saikawa, who resigned in September after being implicated in an excess pay scheme.

He will be joined in the top ranks by newly named chief operating officer India-born Ashwani Gupta, who currently serves in the same role at Nissan partner Mitsubishi Motors.

And Nissan's Jun Seki, current head of the firm's China unit, will serve as vice-COO, in a new structure intended to avoid anyone consolidating power in the way Ghosn is said to have before his arrest on financial misconduct charges last year.

Uchida is described as a skilled administrator with international experience and a commitment to Nissan's tense alliance with France's Renault and Mitsubishi Motors.

He "made a strong impression on me", Renault chairman and Nissan board member Jean-Dominique Senard told AFP.

"He is very Japanese, but he has an openness from his international background," added Senard, who sat on the nomination committee that carried out the CEO search.

He described Uchida as "direct" and with a "very modern" management style.

Importantly for Renault, which has pushed for a strengthening of its three-way partnership with Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors, Uchida views the alliance "as essential for the future of Nissan", Senard said.

Uchida began his career at trading house Nissho Iwai and in 2003 joined Nissan, where he is currently serving as a vice president.

He has an unusually international background for a senior Japanese executive, having spent much of his childhood overseas including in Malaysia, and reportedly speaks near-native English.

He is even reported to have conducted negotiations in Tagalog with traders in the Philippines while working at Nissho Iwai.

"Uchida is what Japanese call a kokusaijn" (citizen of the world): he's very international and has spoken English since he was child," said Janet Lewis, an auto analyst at Macquarie Capital Securities.

He holds an undergraduate degree in theology and has worked heading Nissan's joint venture in China as well as at Renault Samsung in South Korea.

Nissan executives stressed that unique profile in naming Uchida on Tuesday, saying he had a "diverse and wide range of experience".

"We are in a difficult time (and) he will be qualified as the leader of the company," said Masakazu Toyoda, who headed the nomination committee.

Gupta too is seen as a relatively forward-thinking choice for the COO role, as a non-Japanese executive who at 49 is significantly younger than many in the upper echelons of Japan Inc.

He is said to be a keen supporter of the alliance with Renault, and obtained a diploma from French business school Insead.

Seki, meanwhile, is viewed as a Japanese insider. He has spent his entire career at Nissan, and graduated from Japan's National Defense Academy, usually a track into the military.

Nissan has been undergoing a governance overhaul in the wake of the Ghosn scandal, which saw the tycoon accused of under-reporting compensation and using company funds for personal expenses.

The decision to name a new COO and vice-COO is intended to create a more open executive structure, experts said.

"The troika system was introduced to avoid the emergence of dictatorship," said Koji Endo, a senior analyst at SBI Securities.

But he warned that the decision could come with downsides.

"The troika management system may have some weakness when it comes to quick decision-making compared with a system led by a strong leader."

And the team faces enormous challenges. In July the firm posted its worst first-quarter results since the global financial crisis and, while it has cited a global slowdown in the auto sector, Nissan is also suffering from a lack of innovation and reputational damage from the Ghosn scandal.

"The very first thing the new CEO has to do is to revise down Nisan's full-year earnings forecast... and then cut dividends," Endo said.

The alliance must also be strengthened, 12,500 job cuts implemented, and the U.S. business turned around, he added.

"It is a task that normally takes more than a year or two but it has to be fixed quickly."

© 2019 AFP

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.


15 Comments
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I was getting very curious recently about the whole Ghosn case, so I looked up the latest news. To my surprise, I found some new news articles that mentioned the two main whistleblowers, and how much influence they've had over the investigation so far. But the most shocking: they themselves have admitted to being overcompensated, and yet, they received immunity from prosecutors in exchanges for information. This is truly scandalous.

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I'm guessing the whistleblowers were Japanese then.

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Loren impsum : But the most shocking: they themselves have admitted to being overcompensated, and yet, they received immunity from prosecutors in exchanges for information. This is truly scandalous.

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It's not scandalous at all.

Happens all the time in the court system - look through case lae in US, UK, Australia, Canada.

Convicts / those involved in a "crime" turn evidence; they 'plea bargain; whistleblowers cop a deal with prosecution.

That's often how prosecutors can advance evidence in building their case.

Very typical.

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@ Loren ipsum

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What is scandalous, iMO, that these guys were still /are still in the employ of Nissan !!!

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Pukey : I'm guessing the whistleblowers were Japanese then.

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Actually one of them is not Japanese.

I believe - from what I read - he initiated the investigation.

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Re: Uchida - his international experience works very well for him.

Growing up in an international setting in the formative years, as a child - outside of Japan - moves him out of having that obsequious fawning anxiety many Japanese - even in management - have re: foreigners.

Hope his undergrad degree in theology at Doshisha /Kobe helped build integrity.

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The original WB was Hari Nada, he's not Japanese. Saikawa wasn't a WB, he cooperated when the whistle blew. Ghosn decided he wasn't going to cooperate.

I assume Saikawa and Nada has got assurances that their cooperation will save them from prosecution. After all, they didn't even know they were recipients of the Ghosn/Kelly scheme until after all the investigations had taken place. The biggest difference between them and Ghosn is they had no idea dates were shifted in their favour, AND they didn't have offshore facilities to hide their supposed illicit gains.

Why would Nada blow if he knew he was also partied to these illicit acts?

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"He will be joined in the top ranks by newly named chief operating officer India-born Ashwani Gupta"

And if Uchida messes up here is his fall guy.

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Sh'mon M4sada"s point is well taken.

Just to add - at least - Hari Nada, and the other unnamed J guy - admit they were recipients of the Ghosn / Kelly scheme - albeit unknowing.

But they acknowledge their part.

Ghosn refuses to admit his culpability even in face of evidence.

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Yeah, but is he corrupt?

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"Uchida is what Japanese call a kokusaijn" (citizen of the world): he's very international and has spoken English since he was child," said Janet Lewis, an auto analyst at Macquarie Capital Securities.

Speaking English doesn't make one international as the Japanese believe.

I won't say Trump is International because he speaks English.

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After all, they didn't even know they were recipients of the Ghosn/Kelly scheme until after all the investigations had taken place. The biggest difference between them and Ghosn is they had no idea dates were shifted in their favour,

Incorrect.....according to the investigative piece ny NY Times journalists that was published by Asahi news couple of days ago both Nada and the other unnamed J guy  (who is named in the article btw ;) were sent emails by the finance guy in charge who changed the stock option payout dates explaining the move to them....so they knew well before the investigation apparently.

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Lets see but no so much changed to me.

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Undergrad in theology...So he's the new CPO (chief priest officer)? Well, Nissan does need a lot of prayer now

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But the most shocking: they themselves have admitted to being overcompensated, and yet, they received immunity from prosecutors in exchanges for information.

It's a kind of plea deal that exists in different countries. That's a proven way to dismantle organized crime . You pardon the second knives if they help you nail the big boss. In this case, they don't have "immunity" but out of court settlements ( paying back and fines).

This is truly scandalous.

The big scandal is not that a CEO established a system of illegal practices over several continents and diverted over 100 million dollars ?

at least - Hari Nada, and the other unnamed J guy 

Sénard is slowly but surely getting rid of all the involved persons. At least a dozen in each Renault and Nissan.

Look at who was "identified", left, moved nearer to the door, will leave soon.

Kelly, Saikawa, Nada, Shiga, Munoz... On the other bank : Bolloré, Sepheri....

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