Japan based Nissan Motor announced that current CEO Carlos Ghosn, who has been at the helm of the automaker for the last 16 years, will step down and hand the reins to a veteran of the company.
The leadership change comes as Nissan and other automakers Mitsubishi and Renault try leveraging their scaled together as one of the top producing automakers in the world to compete with other carmakers and tech companies in developing autonomous cars and vehicles with lower emissions.
Hiroto Saikawa, who is currently the Co-CEO, will become the CEO alone as of April 1.
This announcement brings to an end speculation over how soon Ghosn would step down at Nissan, which is the No. 2 automaker in Japan, to focus on Renault an alliance partner in France, whose investors have been upset he was stretched too thin as the leader of two of the world’s major automakers.
In December, Ghosn added a chairmanship with a third company, Mitsubishi Motors, which became a member of the alliance last year after the acquisition by Nissan of a controlling stake in the Japanese automaker that has struggled.
Ghosn is to remain the chairman of each of the three companies in the alliance and as the Renault Group CEO, keeping him at the top position of a carmaker that has join Volkswagen and Toyota as producers of close to 10 million vehicles each year.
Ghosn through a statement said that due to taking on new responsibilities recently with Mitsubishi Motors, he decided it was the right time for Saikawa to take the reins alone as CEO at Nissan.
Ghosn added that as the chairman of Nissan he would continue supervising and guide the carmaker, both independently as well as with the three-company alliance. He added that the move allows him more time to run the alliance.
Giving the reins to Nissan will enable Ghosn to focus more on leveraging the scale of the alliance to bring down costs of research & design, production and procurement.
Saikawa is a veteran of 40 years at Nissan, has been the Co-CEO since November of 2016 following the controlling stake Nissan took in Mitsubishi Motors. Before that, he was the CCO and currently is the head of the auto industry lobby in Japan.
Born in Brazil and of Lebanese descent, Ghosn started his career in France with Michelin Tires then moved on to Renault overseeing the French automakers turnaround.