Carlos Ghosn wants next Nissan CEO to be Japanese

Article by Anita Panait, on November 22, 2013

Nissan Motor Co. Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn wants a Japanese leader to replace him as the carmaker’s top honcho. Ghosn has been leading Nissan for 14 years.

After eliminating the Chief Operating Officer post held by Toshiyuki Shiga and reshuffling the carmaker’s top management, he remarked that while Nissan's diverse management is unrivaled by any other manufacturer, it is important to reinstate a Japanese leader at the top when he eventually steps down.

"It's symbolic, and we have plenty of Japanese talent,” Ghosn told Automotive News in an interview. He added that he wants Nissan to be continued to be seen as a Japanese company. He noted that around half of Nissan's top 100 managers are non-Japanese representing 17 nationalities.

Of Nissan’s eight executive vice presidents, one is American and three are British. Ghosn is a Brazilian-born Frenchman of Lebanese descent.

Under Ghosn’s leadership, there has been an influx of foreign executives at Nissan. In 2001, Nissan only had five foreigners from the 27 officers at or above the level of senior vice president. Now, seven of 21 officers are foreigners. On Nov. 1, 2013, Ghosn got rid of the COO post and named Shiga as chairman, which is a largely ceremonial role.

Filling to play the COO roles were Japanese Hiroto Saikawa, and Britons Andy Palmer and Trevor Mann. Nissan’s CFO is American Joseph Peter. Ghosn remarked at the time that the management reshuffling was partly aimed at injecting younger blood into the executive suite to drive a smooth hand-over of control someday.

Born on March 9, 1954, in Porto Velho, Brazil, Carlos Ghosn, graduated as an engineer from the Ecole Polytechnique in 1974 and the Ecole des Mines de Paris in 1978. He first spent 18 years of his career at Michelin, where managed to turn around its South American operations, He was named president and COO of Michelin North America in 1989, and as its CEO in 1990.

In 1996, Ghosn joined Renault as its executive vice president in charge of purchasing, advanced research, engineering and development, powertrain operations, and manufacturing. In March 1999, Renault and Nissan formed the Renault-Nissan Alliance, with Renault acquiring a 36.8-percent stake in Nissan in May 1999. He retained his roles at Renault, Ghosn joined Nissan as its COO in June 1999. He was named as Nissan’s president in June 2000, and then as its CEO in June 2001.

Ghosn was widely credited for turning around Nissan from its near collapse in 1999. He announced his "Nissan Revival Plan" in October 1999, with all objectives set to be achieved by end of fiscal year 2002. However, just 12 months into his three-year turnaround plan, Nissan had already returned to profitability, and within just three years become one of the most profitable carmakers.

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Topics: carlos ghosn, ceo, nissan

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