‘Le Cost Killer’ Ghosn quits Nissan CEO post, stays chair

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TOKYO: Nissan chief executive Carlos Ghosn, credited with reinventing the once nearly bankrupt Japanese automaker, said Thursday he is quitting his post to focus on overhauling rival Mitsubishi Motors, but will stay on as chairman.

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Ghosn, 62, who also heads up French automaker Renault, will hand over the CEO title to Hiroto Saikawa, who is currently co-chief executive with Ghosn, on April 1.

Among a handful of foreign-born CEOs at Japanese firms, Ghosn earned the nickname Le Cost Killer for his aggressive restructuring at Nissan starting in the late nineties.

Last year, he appointed Saikawa, Nissan’s then number two executive, as his co-CEO at the maker of the Altima sedan and X-Trail sport utility vehicle so he could focus on crisis-hit Mitsubishi’s turnaround.

Japan’s number two automaker threw Mitsubishi a lifeline in May when it announced plans to buy a one-third stake in the automaker for about $2.2 billion, as it wrestled with a mileage-cheating scandal that hammered sales.

Two of the affected vehicle models were being made for Nissan, which was the first to uncover problems with the fuel economy data.

Nissan’s management change announced Thursday will be formalised at Nissan’s annual shareholder meeting in June, it said.

“Having recently taken on new responsibilities at Mitsubishi Motors, and taking into consideration the upcoming Nissan general shareholders meeting, I have decided that the time is right for Hiroto Saikawa to succeed me as Nissan’s CEO,” Ghosn said in a statement.

Ghosn will remain CEO of Renault —which holds a more than 40 percent stake in Nissan—and chairman of the three automakers.

The reshuffle would allow Ghosn to “focus on the group’s alliance” with Renault and Mitsubishi, and was not linked to health or any other problems, Nissan spokeswoman Keiko Hoshino told AFP.

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