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Nissan names head of China business to be new CEO

by Ace Damon
Nissan logo at a Nissan car gallery in Tokyo

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The Associated Press

Published October 8, 2019 at 8:14.

Last updated Tuesday, October 8, 2019 8:55 EDT

TOKYO – Nissan has selected China's chief business officer, Makoto Uchida, as its new president and chief executive, replacing Hiroto Saikawa, who resigned after acknowledging earning dubious income.

Nissan Motor Co. is facing a leadership crisis amid declining profitability since last year's arrest of former President Carlos Ghosn over allegations of financial misconduct.

Uchida's appointment was announced by the Japanese automaker late Tuesday at a hasty, half-hour press conference by board members Yasushi Kimura and Masakazu Toyoda.

They have repeatedly promised to change the automaker and strengthen corporate governance.

Uchida, senior vice president, is now president of Dongfeng Motor Co., Nissan's China unit. He did not appear before the reporters.

Toyoda said Uchida was unanimously chosen by the board because of his vast international experience. He is seen as capable of leading Nissan's longstanding alliance with French automaker Renault. Renault owns 43% of Nissan.

The Yokohama-based company has also named Ashwani Gupta, chief operating officer of its partner Mitsubishi Motors Corp. as your new COO.

Board members appointed Gupta Indian nationality added to the international leadership experience. Gupta is a member of Renault's management committee.

Ghosn is awaiting trial in Japan, accused of falsifying deferred compensation documents and breaching confidence in diverting Nissan money for personal gain. He denies irregularities.

Saikawa had been closely allied with the Brazilian-born French, but turned against him.

He resigned last month after an internal investigation found that he had received inadequate extra compensation. Revenue, linked to Nissan's stock price, was inflated after the receipt date was illegally adjusted. Saikawa said he was unaware of the adjustment.

Nissan has promised to announce its replacement within a month.

The appointments need shareholder approval, which the board members said would be sought early next year.

Ghosn led Nissan for two decades and made it one of the most successful automakers in the world before its arrest in November 2018.

He was accused of falsifying deferred compensation documents that he had not received. He was also accused of breaching trust for channeling company money for personal gain.

A Nissan investigation cited Ghosn's family's use of company jets, the use of company money for family vacations and personal gifts, and university donations as examples of his alleged misconduct.

Ghosn's trial should not begin until next year. Saikawa was not charged with any wrongdoing.

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