Nissan’s Chief Executive Officer, Hiroto Saikawa, apparently intends to stick around a little longer than previously expected. According to unnamed Nissan staffers who spoke to Bloomberg, the CEO told executives he plans to stay at least three more years to help the automaker recover from the aftermath of the scandal involving Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance head Carlos Ghosn — despite recently signalling his intent step down in the near future.
Saikawa was hand-picked by Ghosn as Nissan CEO in 2017. However, the two grew increasingly distant as talk of a potential merger with alliance partner Renault began to swell. In fact, Ghosn was actively working toward combining the companies up until his November arrest — which he attributed to interference from Nissan.
While still incarcerated, Ghosn admitted he was not pleased with Saikawa’s performance, and had been considering removing him from his role within the company. The Nissan CEO had taken a hardline stance against the merger, choosing to support Japanese interests first.
He also lost face over Nissan’s final inspection scandal, which led to work stoppages and the recall of roughly one million vehicles. However, legal actions taken against the defamed Alliance head made Saikawa’s removal an impossibility. Ghosn is now more concerned with doing battle with the brick wall that is Japan’s legal system. But that does not necessarily guarantee Saikawa another three years with Nissan.
Regardless of Saikawa’s plans, there’s no guarantee he will stay on in the CEO role if the company’s performance takes a serious hit from the Ghosn scandal or there is some unforeseen legal exposure for the company.
However, cementing Saikawa’s position as the long-term head of Nissan could make it harder for France’s Renault SA to push for deeper ties with its Japanese partner. While Ghosn ran the boards of both Renault and Nissan, and was working toward combining the companies until his arrest, Saikawa has spoken strongly against a merger and has emerged as a defender of Japanese interests.