Carlos Ghosn steps down as Nissan CEO, Hiroto Saikawa to take over in April

by SpeedLux
Hiroto Saikawa

Hiroto Saikawa has been recently promoted to CEO at Nissan Motor, Japan’s second-biggest automaker.

The 63-year-old takes over in April from Carlos Ghosn, who engineered Nissan’s healing from years of losses and debt through broad cost-cutting and dismantling the generally close ties with providers – the informal keiretsu network once key to Japan Inc’s success.

Saikawa joined the automaker from Tokyo University 40 years earlier, has been groomed to take over from Ghosn, who was called “Le Cost Killer” after making his mark at Michelin and after that Renault, Nissan’s primary alliance partner.

“There is no difference in between what I think and exactly what he thinks,” Ghosn stated at a press conference in October when Saikawa was selected co-CEO of the automaker.

People who have dealt with Saikawa say he, too, is an aggressive cost-cutter, who won’t avoid difficult choices if they can enhance effectiveness.

“Ghosn sees Saikawa as his equivalent,” stated one executive who worked under Saikawa when he was chief competitive officer from 2013, adding Saikawa is among the longest-serving members of Nissan’s executive committee.

After Ghosn, “Saikawa is the most embellished man in terms of producing tangible results,” informed another senior Nissan group executive, who has also worked with Saikawa for several years.

“He doesn’t hold back,” among the executives stated. “He’s not afraid to humiliate individuals in a big meeting if he thinks they’re refraining from doing the task. Some individuals might not like him for that, (but) he’s really strict, really strong and aggressive.”

For Ghosn, and others, that can be excused as it generates results.

“Individuals in Nissan acknowledge him as a strong leader; he sets a target, and he will achieve it,” stated a 3rd Nissan executive. None of the executives wanted to be called given the personal nature of their comments.

Hiroto Saikawa was tough and direct early in his profession as a “strategy to get people to deliver results,” stated among the 3 executives.

“You can tell he’s changing: 10-15 years ago, he may have been gruff and almost militaristic, now as he evolves as a leader, he’s far more diplomatic … not so harsh.”

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