Nissan CEO Saikawa to step down this month

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YOKOHAMA, Japan — Nissan’s chairman of the board said CEO Hiroto Saikawa will step down Sept. 16 and that Nissan COO Yasuhiro Yamauchi will serve as acting chief executive while the company seeks a full-time boss.

The chairman, Yasushi Kimura, said Saikawa will step down effective Sept. 16 and that the company hopes to make a decision on his successor by the end of October. 

Kimura’s comments came as the company’s board outlined the findings of an internal investigation into the misconduct that led to the arrest of former Chairman Carlos Ghosn and left Japan’s second-largest automaker beset in turmoil.

Saikawa had recently indicated a willingness to resign, and the board unanimously felt it was better to act on the matter immediately, Kimura said at a hastily called late-night press conference at Nissan’s global headquarters here south of Tokyo. 

“We felt immediate action would be appropriate,” Kimura said.

Nissan has a short list of 10 possible successors, including at least one woman, a non-Japanese and one person with experience at French auto partner Renault, said Masakazu Toyoda, chair of Nissan’s recently created nomination committee.

The list was narrowed down from about 100 candidates over the course of the summer. The selection process began in July, Toyoda said. 

Increased pressure

Saikawa, 65, had come under increasing pressure to step down amid fresh revelations he exercised a stock-linked compensation scheme to boost his payout by nearly half-a-million dollars.

In June, Nissan shareholders approved Saikawa’s reappointment to the board, despite growing controversy about his oversight during the time of Ghosn’s alleged misdeeds.

Saikawa served as co-CEO with Ghosn, 65, during a one-year transition before taking control as solo CEO in 2017. But since then, Saikawa’s tenure has only been besieged by scandal.

The first crisis erupted in late 2017, when Nissan disclosed it had been conducting faulty final inspections of vehicles at assembly plants throughout Japan.

That triggered the recall more than 1.2 million vehicles in Japan, a callback of virtually every passenger car the company produced for sale in Japan over the previous three years.

More inspection misconduct was uncovered in 2018, and then came Ghosn’s arrest.

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