By on September 9, 2019

Ask Japanese media about Hiroto Saikawa’s status at Nissan and they’ll tell you he already has one and a half feet out the door. Following a report Sunday in Japan’s Nikkei, in which Saikawa allegedly told company executives of his plan to resign, the boss man himself admitted it’s true.

Speaking to the media, Saikawa, who was forced into contrition last week over revelations of excess compensation from an equity-linked remuneration scheme, said he wants to head out ASAP. His replacement will already be aware of the great challenges ahead.

“I want to pass the baton to the next generation as soon as possible,” Saikawa told Tokyo reporters early Monday. While the CEO wouldn’t say when exactly they could expect an official replacement, he did say that the automaker’s board would make “thorough preparations” for the changeover.

Last week Saikawa apologized and vowed to repay any excess funds gained through bonuses tied to stock performance, bonuses some allege Saikawa tweaked to boost his take. While the exec again denied this Monday – “I never ordered the company to break the rules” — it seems Saikawa has accumulated too much baggage to stay on in the top job.

A source told Reuters that Nissan’s nominating company will meet Monday to discuss a possible replacement. Saikawa, the source said, is hardly “clinging to his chair.”

The company already finds itself in a state of turmoil following the November arrest of its former chairman, Carlos Ghosn, on charges of underreporting income and funneling company cash to businesses he controlled. Earlier this year, Saikawa found himself in the hot seat after it was revealed he approved a controversial lump sum payment that was to be part of Ghosn’s proposed retirement package. If that’s not enough dark clouds for a potential successor, Nissan finds itself a junior partner in a broader alliance whose French leadership still holds out hopes of merging with Fiat Chrysler.

Nissan’s sales are also down, with its Infiniti premium brand contracting sharply and recently dropping out of the European market. Nissan’s revenue and profits have taken a nosedive in a year Saikawa himself described as “rock bottom.” Meanwhile, auto sales have cooled off throughout the western world and economists and forecasters are bracing for a recession.

Whoever replaces Saikawa has their work cut out for them.

[Image: Nissan]

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