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

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
the final three renault chairman assesses nissans candidates for ceo

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]

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  • 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.

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