Automotive Politics: Saikawa Stays as Nissan's CEO, Renault's Next Move

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
automotive politics saikawa stays as nissans ceo renaults next move

Nissan’s Hiroto Saikawa appears to be staying on as CEO, despite claiming late last year that he would soon step down. While not sensational news in itself, the decision is underpinned by growing animosity between the automaker and alliance partner Renault.

Back in March, the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance was doing damage control following the arrest of its chief architect, Carlos Ghosn — resulting in a memorandum of understanding that aimed to restore balance between the automakers and prove to the public that they were all still friends. However, less than a month later, things began to unravel. Renault (encouraged by the French government) was, once again, pushing for integration and hoping to rejigger Nissan’s management structure.

Now the very legitimacy of Nissan’s board is being called into question.

Reuters reported on Thursday that Nissan’s management board unanimously supported Saikawa remaining as CEO, adding that a source close to Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard claimed no such vote had actually taken place regarding Saikawa’s reappointment.

Still, Nissan’s public support of its CEO appears unwavering. The board’s only stated gripe was that he could have potentially done more to rein in Ghosn. Of course, if you asked the defamed executive, he would tell you that he’s only facing charges because of a corporate power struggle. Ghosn has repeatedly insisted that his alleged financial misconduct is a fabrication on the part of Nissan to ensure his removal from any future decision making.

While unproven, it is known that he considered firing Saikawa shortly before his arrest and wished to see a merger between Nissan and Renault — something the Japanese company is categorically opposed to.

“While there are issues pertaining to Saikawa’s responsibility, we feel it is more constructive to focus on cooperation within the alliance, Nissan’s recovery and its strategic plan,” Nissan Director Keiko Ihara said.

“We had a robust debate, we took our time to look at the risks … but in the end all of the directors agreed to the appointment,” she continued, adding that Senard had agreed at a meeting earlier this week to have Saikawa remain as CEO.

With shades of grey on both sides, we can at least say with absolute certainty that Nissan is reeling from an abysmal earnings report. Last year went poorly for the company, with operating profit dropping by 45 percent. Worse still, the company forecasts a 28-percent decline in operating profit this year. Saikawa blamed the majority of these problems on Ghosn’s “negative legacy.”

It’s not the kind of stuff you read about right before someone isn’t fired as CEO. But Saikawa is practically guaranteed to continue opposing a corporate merger, which is enough for many in Japan.

As things currently stand, the board’s size will increase to eleven members from eight. Nissan has suggested adding Renault Chief Executive Thierry Bollore and retaining Senard. The board’s new makeup would include seven outside directors but remain predominantly Japanese. The proposals will be put to a shareholder vote this June.

At this point, Nissan looks so opposed to any potential merger that we’re shocked France is still considering it. The only advantage it has is Nissan’s dismal financial performance from 2018. However, as important as that may be, Japan is already fuming over the lopsided distribution of power and doesn’t want to lose another inch of ground.

[Image: Anton Watman/Shutterstock]

Join the conversation
2 of 5 comments
  • JoDa JoDa on May 19, 2019

    Carlos Ghosn "cost-cut" Nissan into fragile junk. The Japanese resent it.

  • Akear Akear on May 19, 2019

    Running a company like Bara, Hackett, and Ghosn is obviously considered criminal in Japan. The next phase of this saga will see the elimination of all traces of French leadership within Nissan.

  • Jeanbaptiste Any variant of “pizza” flavored combos. I only eat these on car trips and they are just my special gut wrenching treat.
  • Nrd515 Usually for me it's been Arby's for pretty much forever, except when the one near my house dosed me with food poisoning twice in about a year. Both times were horrible, but the second time was just so terrible it's up near the top of my medical horror stories, and I have a few of those. Obviously, I never went to that one again. I'm still pissed at Arby's for dropping Potato Cakes, and Culver's is truly better anyway. It will be Arby's fish for my "cheat day", when I eat what I want. No tartar sauce and no lettuce on mine, please. And if I get a fish and a French Dip & Swiss? Keep the Swiss, and the dip, too salty. Just the meat and the bread for me, thanks. The odds are about 25% that they will screw one or both of them up and I will have to drive through again to get replacement sandwiches. Culver's seems to get my order right many times in a row, but if I hurry and don't check my order, that's when it's screwed up and garbage to me. My best friend lives on Starbucks coffee. I don't understand coffee's appeal at all. Both my sister and I hate anything it's in. It's like green peppers, they ruin everything they touch. About the only things I hate more than coffee are most condiments, ranked from most hated to..who cares..[list=1][*]Tartar sauce. Just thinking about it makes me smell it in my head. A nod to Ranch here too. Disgusting. [/*][*]Mayo. JEEEEZUS! WTF?[/*][*]Ketchup. Sweet puke tasting sludge. On my fries? Salt. [/*][*]Mustard. Yikes. Brown, yellow, whatever, it's just awful.[/*][*]Pickles. Just ruin it from the pickle juice. No. [/*][*]Horsey, Secret, whatever sauce. Gross. [/*][*]American Cheese. American Sleeze. Any cheese, I don't want it.[/*][*]Shredded lettuce. I don't hate it, but it's warm and what's the point?[/*][*]Raw onion. Totally OK, but not something I really want. Grilled onions is a whole nother thing, I WANT those on a burger.[/*][*]Any of that "juice" that Subway and other sandwich places want to put on. NO, HELL NO! Actually, move this up to #5. [/*][/list=1]
  • SPPPP It seems like a really nice car that's just still trying to find its customer.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird I owned an 87 Thunderbird aka the second generation aero bird. It was a fine driving comfortable and very reliable car. Quite underrated compared to the GM G-body mid sized coupes since unlike them they had rack and pinion steering and struts on all four wheels plus fuel injection which GM was a bit late to the game on their mid and full sized cars. When I sold it I considered a Mark VII LSC which like many had its trouble prone air suspension deleted and replaced with coils and struts. Instead I went for a MN-12 Thunderbird.
  • SCE to AUX Somebody got the bill of material mixed up and never caught it.Maybe the stud was for a different version (like the 4xe) which might use a different fuel tank.