The Final Three: Renault Chairman Assesses Nissan's Candidates for CEO

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

The hunt for Nissan’s next chairman has been narrowed to three potential candidates. Their final challenge will be impressing Renault chairman Jean-Dominique Senard. According to reports, Senard spent the better part of Tuesday interviewing Renault-Nissan veterans — via teleconference or face-to-face meetings in Paris.

Considering the laundry list of problems Nissan currently faces, it’s difficult to imagine why anybody would want the job. Maybe it’s the sizable paychecks or perhaps an eagerness to turn things around at the automaker. Either way, whoever Nissan ends up with will have at least as much as they can handle.

Let’s take a look at the candidates.

Up until recently, Nissan’s acting CEO Yasuhiro Yamauchi has been viewed as the clear frontrunner. Assuming the duties of Hiroto Saikawa since his September resignation provided the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance with a unique opportunity to see what he’s made of, however brief that period may be. But he’s now seen as even with Jun Seki, the former chairman of Nissan Motor China.

Both men have been with the automaker since the 1980s, climbing the corporate ladder before assuming high-level positions later in their careers. Like Saikawa, they also have prominent moles near their noses — only more so. While this is unlikely to be a prerequisite for the position of chief executive, it is kind of freaky. What are the odds?

According to Reuters, Mitsubishi Chief Operating Officer Ashwani Gupta — who doesn’t appear to have any facial moles — is also under consideration. He joined Renault in 2006 and was tapped as the Japanese brand’s COO earlier this year.

While we’ve no clue what Senard was looking for in his interviews, Reuters covered the obvious while provided some additional insight into the chairman’s mind:

The support of Renault, which has a 43.4 percent stake in Nissan, will be critical to winning the CEO post, as will support from Japan’s trade ministry, which has intervened in Nissan’s affairs, sensitive to Renault’s upper hand in the alliance.

A Renault spokesman declined to comment.

One issue Senard raised, according to the sources, was Nissan’s ability and willingness to defend its dividend payout, which was cut for the fiscal year ended March 31 following a 45 percent decline in Nissan’s operating profit. That dividend cut wiped 130 million euros ($146 million) off Renault’s 2019 earnings.

Nissan is forecasting earnings to continue to slip this fiscal year.

Yamauchi reportedly left his Tuesday meeting with Senard smiling. Seki was also said to be in good spirits following his interview, telling colleagues he “had a blast.”

Hopefully both men can make that feeling last, as they may have to spend the next few years restoring the broken relationship between Nissan and Renault. They’re also unlikely to get away from questions about the alleged financial misconduct of the alliance’s former leader Carlos Ghosn — including the possible involvement of the now-retired Saikawa.

As Yamauchi is seen as having closer ties to both men, Seki may have a slight advantage in this respect. However, it’s believed Seki is eager to take drastic measures to ensure the Asian automaker’s wellbeing, with the automotive alliance potentially playing a distant second fiddle. That could encourage high-ranking officials to favor the older Yamauchi. But this is all speculation, and it unfairly discounts Gupta — who we know very little about, outside of his business credentials and lack of visible birthmarks.

Nissan will also be in the midst of its own corporate restructuring when the new CEO is settling into office. The chosen candidate will also have to navigate demands from Japanese stakeholders and staff to give the automaker more independence from Renault. All while trying to turn the company’s finances around.

[Image: rmcarvalhobsb/Shutterstock]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

More by Matt Posky

Join the conversation
3 of 6 comments
  • Rpol35 Rpol35 on Oct 03, 2019

    Perhaps a competition? Get a 0.5 oz. bottle of "King Bio Mole Remover" (available at Walmart) and the first one to 86 the mole gets the gig.

    • Thejohnnycanuck Thejohnnycanuck on Oct 03, 2019

      Does it also get rid of crappy CVTs, stupid floating roofs, V-Motion buck-toothed grilles, seemingly endless sales to rental fleets and arguably the worst dealer network in North America? Okay I'm biased on that last one. I still bought the car but honestly, passing a kidney stone would have been a less painful experience.

  • Noble713 Noble713 on Oct 05, 2019

    I hope Gupta takes over....mostly as an "F*** You" to Saikawa for throwing the company into turmoil in an attempt to get it back under "Japanese" control.

  • Glennbk Please Mitsubishi, no more rebranded Nissan products.
  • Wolfwagen What I never see when they talk about electric trucks is how much do these things weigh and how much does that detract from the cargo-carrying capacity?
  • Wolfwagen I dont know how good the Triton is but if they could get it over here around the $25K - $30K They would probably sell like hotcakes. Make a stripped down version for fleet sales would also help
  • 3SpeedAutomatic You mentioned that Mitsubishi cars had lost their character. Many brands are losing that that element as well. GM is giving up on the ICE Camaro and Dodge on the ICE Challenger. There goes the Bad Boy image. Might as well get your teeth pulled and dentures put in place. Would like to see a few EVOs with cherry bomb exhaust and true 4 cylinder BIG blower turbos; 4 wheel drift capacity is mandatory!!🚗🚗🚗
  • Tassos Here in my overseas summer palace, I filled up my tank twice in May, at 68 and 52 euros (a full 90+ liter tank fillup has taken 130-135 Euros in the past, and I am 23 miles from downtown here, while only 1-2 miles in the US)Still, diesel here is MUCH cheaper than gas. Yesterday, I paid 1,488 a liter while gas was at least 1,899 (regular).Multiply by almost 4 for gallons AND by an additional 1.1 for $.