Carlos Ghosn Steps Down As Nissan CEO, Will Continue To Lead Alliance

2 months ago by Jay Cole 36

Carlos Ghosn through the years

Over the past few weeks Nissan’s media machine has been rolling out a series of “best hits” called “What drives Carlos Ghosn(one can check out the 7 part piece here), so it was apparent the end of the popular CEO’s tenure at Nissan was coming to a close.

It was evident even at the outset of Nissan’s current 5-year plan that kicked off in 2012, that it would be Carlos Ghosn’s last serving as CEO

And with Nissan’s latest 5-year plan, dubbed “Power 88” winding down on March 31st, it has been announced that Hiroto Saikawa will be taking over.

With that said, Ghosn is far from being dis-associated from the Nissan-Renault Alliance, or Nissan’s latest acquisition – Mitsubishi Motors.   He continues on as Chairman of Nissan, CEO of Renault, and Chairman of Mitusbishi…not to mention the CEO/Chairman of the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi Alliance.

So, he basically still is supreme overlord of the trio.

Carlos Ghosn said of the transition:

“I am confident that the management team I have developed at Nissan over the past 18 years has the talent and experience to meet the company’s operational and strategic goals. 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.”

As an interesting note to the end of the “Power 88” and Ghosn’s term as CEO, it was projected way-back-when that the next generation LEAF would be arriving at the start of the next 5-year plan (which kicks off April 1st), and wouldn’t you know it…the “new” LEAF is expected to debut right around that time in Geneva or New York.

After confirming the upgraded LEAF will be unveiled soon, the only question now seems to be: “Will the old CEO show it off in Geneva next week, or will it be the “new” man…40-year Nissan vet, and next CEO Hiroto Saikawa in April in New York?”

Over his time as CEo, Ghosn has lead Nissan from the financial abyss in the late 90s (known as “Le Cost Cutter”) to the power-entity it is today, and as such, Hiroto Saikawa is definitely taking over a thoroughbred.

A rather young looking Carlos Ghosn working at Michelin in Brazil at 26

With that said, Mr. Saikawa should have little difficulty following through on what Ghosn has done in the past, having been with the company since 1977 (when does this fellow plan on retiring anyway?), and also having recently served as Nissan’s Chief Competitive Officer (April 2013 through October 2016) until being named co-CEO thereafter.

Truthfully, with Saikawa at the wheel, it almost seems like Ghosn will still be running the show at Nissan, but he has just ran out of man-hours during the day to hold the title.

In fact, Ghosn pretty said so on his exit April 1st, 2017:

“As Nissan’s Chairman, I will continue to supervise and guide the company, both independently and within the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance.

This planned change will also allow me to devote more time and energy to managing the strategic and operational evolution and expansion of the Alliance and ensuring that all its members benefit from the competitive advantages that its scale will deliver.

I am committed to supporting the Alliance as it evolves and expands, and will continue to serve each member of the Alliance wherever and whenever necessary.”

Mr. Saikawa added a comment of his own on taking over as full-time Nissan CEO:

“I would like to thank Mr. Ghosn and the Nissan board for entrusting me with this new responsibility. Under Mr. Ghosn’s chairmanship and with the support of the excellent leadership team that has been built at Nissan, my focus will be delivering our company’s continued performance and development and on continuing Nissan’s contribution to the success of the Alliance.”

Hat tip to Ken B!

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36 responses to "Carlos Ghosn Steps Down As Nissan CEO, Will Continue To Lead Alliance"

  1. no comment says:

    importantly, ghosn remains ceo of renault and renault is the controlling entity in the alliance. nissan, on the other hand, has no control.

  2. Bill Howland says:

    Since Nissan is so shy about revealing future vehicles (other than non-plug-in-h2 ones) – I’m getting the impression that Nissan is putting PHEV’s and BEV’s essentially on the back burner.

    I’m afraid I don’t understand their stategic vision – they’ve forced all Nissan dealerships in the states to install 4 L2 – 30 amp chargers, and some of them also fast chargers. So they’ve INSISTED on all this infrastructure but now it seems they’ve ‘moved on’ from Ev’s, if not in France but seemingly in the States? I don’t get it.

    1. tftf says:

      They don’t want to lose current sales. The day they announce a Leaf2, Leaf1 sales and dealership inventory won’t move.

      Same happened with Renault ZOE in Europe in late 2016:

      They announced the car only when the new model with the improved battery was already running off the production lines, customers already got them a few weeks later…

      1. Ziv says:

        I don’t know, tftf. Nissan has been down to 1500 Leafs in North American inventory for a while. If they were drawing down inventory due to the impending launch of the Leaf 2, it seems like they would have already pulled the trigger. And even after the longer range Leaf 2 is launched, I think Nissan will still be able to move first Gen Leafs by using incentives.

        I think the Leaf 2 may have had to be redesigned after the Bolt came out with 238 miles of AER. We might not see the new Leaf until the fall.

        1. Samwise says:

          I wouldn’t read anything from US LEAF inventory levels, Nissan don’t design and produce for the American market, they do it for the Japanese market first and the European market second, somewhere well in last place is the US behind all the other right hand drive countries. The same goes for Mitsubishi (or in fact any Japanese car manufacturer). If you want to know when a new LEAF is coming look at Japanese stock levels.

          1. Ziv says:

            I hear you Sam, but Japanese car purchases are around 5 Mn a year and Europe is around 12 Mn a year. So since US car purchases are around 16 Mn a year, concentrating on Japanese demand with regards to the Leaf may be a bit short sighted.
            The Gen I Leaf is really only doing ok in Japan right now, it needs a refresh everywhere else.

    2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      “…it seems they’ve ‘moved on’ from Ev’s, if not in France but seemingly in the States? I don’t get it.”

      I speculate that Nissan found that the entire Leaf program made very little if any overall profit for them, so they don’t see any point to pursuing newer models of BEVs.

      I recall that back when the Leaf was new, a Nissan exec was quoted as saying (paraphrasing here, I don’t remember the exact words) that they planned to start making a profit in the third year of production. This is contrast to gasmobiles, which generally start making a profit in the second year, and I think not long after the end of the first year.

      But that was before Nissan found it necessary to build two new battery factories, in Tennessee and the UK, to supply the Leaf. And I think many here will remember all the arguments over whether Nissan was better off making their own batteries, or buying them from LG Chem. As it turned out, I think they are now making batteries at all their AESC factories, including the original one in Japan, but perhaps they’re operating at only partial capacity, since it has also been reported that Nissan is buying some of their batteries from LG Chem.

      To summarize, it looks to me like the entire Leaf program wound up being a lot more expensive than Nissan planned for it to be, and thus significantly less profitable.

      Of course in the long term, as the EV revolution progresses and more of the market switches to BEVs and PHEVs, Nissan will be forced to make newer models of PEVs (Plug-in EVs), if they want to stay competitive. But in the short run, it looks like they’ve been soured on the lack of profits.

      Again, please note this is speculation on my part. It’s based on facts as I understand them, but my conclusions are speculations.

      1. Alonso Perez says:

        I don’t think this speculation is correct. The EV program is a key long-term Ghosn strategic imperative.

        What makes it tricky to see this is that Ghosn is also kind of a tightwad, or let’s just say extremely financially disciplined. And he plans very far ahead. Even his schedule is set over a year in advance and this transition has probably been in the works at least that long. He is the exact opposite of Musk, who wakes up one day and decides he’s going to make tunnels, and starts the next day.

        With this kind of discipline, the Leaf was going to go through its planned product lifecycle come hell or high water. It’s just how Ghosn rolls. But the product line isn’t going away. It will be improved and expanded. It is a key strategic imperative for Renault-Nissan, which wants to be the #1 seller of low-cost EVs in developing markets. Ghosn believes nearly all growth in the auto market will happen in developing markets, for the simple reason that developed markets are saturated, and he has stated and understands that this growth is totally unsustainable. This is also why the packs are air cooled. The idea is to have an architecture that eventually will allow for EVs that cost $5,0000.

      2. ffbj says:

        I think that’s got some points. For one they did not see the Bolt coming, which is what really hurts. It was like we will make an inexpensive ev and everyone, who wants a less expensive ev, will buy it, since they have little choice. So they sort of rested on their laurels rather than go all hands on deck to get to the next generation.

        I think there is validity to your pov. It cost them more than thought it would and they pulled back, instead of doubling down.

    3. unlucky says:

      Currently I don’t agree with you. But I am being swayed a bit more and more as Nissan lets other companies leapfrog them.

      I think Nissan wants to continue with EVs and I think they will. I do however expect to be underwhelmed with the next LEAF. More range? Sure, meaning a bigger pack. Probably a little faster, sure, a little faster. Maybe even CCS charging in Europe and a bit less likely the US.

      But I expect them to do minimal actual improvement beyond this. I don’t expect them to make a more fun car, I expect it to remain their similar to their cheapest car. In fact the “LEAF 2” pics we see seem to be a current LEAF with square headlights instead of bug eyes. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the final one be essentially that.

      I wouldn’t be surprised to see the LEAF 2 to not add much, to basically just go to 400-500kms NEDC range (essentially a Bolt competitor). I fully expect it to still have a Nissan-style interior (black plastic) and all the same cost-cutting Nissan is famous for (there are no wheel well liners in the rear wheel wells on the LEAF) and thus the same “cheap transportation” feel that the LEAF has.

      And thus I don’t expect them to even match Chevy or Hyundai let alone try to match BMW, Tesla S or the upcoming other higher positioned-vehicles.

      I’d love to be proven wrong but right now I don’t get that feeling. I’d like to see Nissan leap back to the fore, and I think their dealers (at least around here where EVs sell) would too.

      The LEAF was the first great “factory conversion” EV where you took a gas car and put the motor where the engine would be, put the batteries where the gas tank would be and called it a day. For those wondering, yes don’t consider the Tesla Roadster to be the first great one of this sort since it wasn’t a great car. Very influential but the quality was rather poor as well as the finish. It was very important though.

      It’s no longer really time for the factory conversion EV. The LEAF, Fit EV, 500e, Ford Focus Electric and MB B250e are the past. The Model S and i3 really started to show us what can be done when you make an EV as an EV from the start, moving that firewall forward and making more space for occupants or cargo. And the Bolt came along and showed us you can actually start from an ICE platform (Chevy Sonic/Buick Encore) and still take full advantage of what being a pure EV can do for you.

      Even the e-Golf and Hyundai Ioniq give up some advantage by being shared platforms with non-EVs. As good as those cars they also have to continue to adapt with future models.

      Nissan can adapt, I really hope they do. But right now I don’t have a lot of hope. Nissan really needs a significantly improved LEAF. And have have to figure out how to migrate toward slightly larger cars to compete with the future luxury and near-luxury cars we will see from BMW, Audi and hopefully others.

      1. BenG says:

        That all sounds pretty reasonable, but I’m slightly more optimistic than you.

        I expect the Leaf 2 to be a significant step forward in a lot of ways from the Leaf, but yes, it will still be, at heart, an economy car.

        I think Nissan is probably putting some significant investment into the Gen 2, given Gohsn’s commitment to EVs in the past.

      2. James says:

        Just can’t get that video of Ghosn up on the Bolt EV platform at CES with that sour look on his face.

        He saved Nissan, which is his legacy in the auto business to be sure, but his vision and determination to build the LEAF is what we who love EVs will most remember him for. As Chairman of the auto group, hopefully he’ll keep up motivation to improve their line of electrics.

        While good at concepts and prototype race cars, they fail to generate excitement over electric cars as Tesla has done.

        I tend to think you guys are fairly insightful re: the 2nd LEAF. What we see under wraps until Geneva appears to be an air-cooled, improved version of Gen 1. I’m expecting a base version with 140 miles range to battle IONIQ and a top model with 230 miles range to battle Bolt EV. The air-cooled pack is a big concern though – but engineers at Nissan always said it was a compromise to keep costs down.

  3. Pete says:

    Ghosn is the best, the man who brings Renault-Nissan to the EV leader. Thats great, I will honor that with buying a Leaf 2 because my first Leaf runs without any problems since 30.000 miles.

    1. CLIVE says:

      The timing of Leaf 2 coming to market has everything to do with Carlos. He truly deserves to be where he is today.

      Good luck to Carlos and the new Alliance accordingly.

    2. ModernMarvelFan says:

      “I will honor that with buying a Leaf 2 because my first Leaf runs without any problems since 30.000 miles.”

      30K miles is nothing for an EV…

      I hope LEAF2.0 is more competitive than its 1.0 for sure.

      Back in the days of LEAF 1.0, it had almost no competition due to the fact that no other BEV offers the value and range and availability at the time.

      Now, things are different.

      Competition has leapfrogged it. Nissan is no longer setting the bar but rather chasing the bars (multiple from different offerings) now.

  4. tftf says:

    “the “new” LEAF is expected to debut right around that time in Geneva or New York”

    Your sources or just general expectation?

    Farewell presentation for Ghosn in his Nissan role should fit March date (before he leaves as CEO)?

    Or just an educated guess? @InsideEVs

    Next venue would be Tokyo in a few months if Nissan sticks to big shows.

    1. Alan says:

      It will definately be Geneva !

      1. Jay Cole says:

        Hrm…not definitely for Geneva actually (actually looks a bit thin atm), but it is a near sure thing between that and the next US show in NY.

      2. tftf says:

        Then we will know in a few days…

        http://www.gims.swiss/en/

        Press days and PR start even earlier.

        Still, what makes you so sure?
        Inside info?

        1. BenG says:

          I don’t think roll-out is imminent. Maybe we’ll get some teaser information at Geneva, but I don’t think we’ll see the Leaf 2 introduction. Tokyo seems more like it.

          1. tftf says:

            Well, that’s six months apart. TMS is only starting by the end of Oct 2017:

            http://www.tokyo-motorshow.com/en/press_release/20160915.html

            I don’t think they can reveal too much in Geneva or risk losing months of Leaf1 sales.

  5. Mister G says:

    Trump years will be a rerun of the Dubya years…housing bubble, reckless borrowing and spending in real estate, invasions of foreign lands, wall Street deregulation, credit freeze in financial institutions, wall Street bailouts, attempt to privatize social security, tax cuts for the wealthy, tax increase on middle class, gas guzzler subsidies etc…history is gonna repeat itself. And now that Ghosn is out Nissan EV push will diminish and fade away.

    1. Alonso Perez says:

      Ghosn isn’t out at all. He’s just delegating some tasks because even though the man is incredibly disciplined, there are only so many hours in a day. The Renault-Nissan alliance has a lot more members now.

      As to the rest, yes, bad things will happen. But the EV cat is out of the bag and is not going back in.

    2. Ziv says:

      The amusing thing about your post is that W and McCain tried to rein in the housing market twice, once in 2002 and again in 2003. They were trying to reduce the NINJA mortgages encouraged by Fannie Mae but Barnie Frank ran them out of town. So the No Income, No Jobs or Assets mortgages kept on coming for several more years.
      Can you imagine if the bubble had burst in 2003 or 2004? The bubble was much less inflated at that time but it would have still caused a recession and that probably would have cost W the presidency.
      President Kerry 2005 to 2009. 😉

      1. Nick says:

        Deregulation without thought allowed financial institutions to behave recklessly offering NINJA loans.

        Oops.

      2. ffbj says:

        People will cheat, lie, and steal. So if you make it easier they will cheat, lie, and steal more, (and if they are real rich scum, never file their taxes). Btw Wells Fargo just opened a few more accounts in your name. So yeah the banks need less regulation but at the same time they need more accountability.

      3. Mister G says:

        Fannie and Freddie get the blame from conservatives and conveniently omit blame from banks, mortgage lenders, real estate industry etc. But here we go again and this time I’m gonna sell high to a sucker instead of buying high and being suckered lol

    3. ffbj says:

      That’s a pretty negative, though probable outcome. The problem with ideologies is they look great on paper, but when it comes to actual implementation in the real world it just does not work.

  6. Trace says:

    The silly idea that Barney Frank had more power than Bushco Inc. is some serious revisionist history.

    Yes, yes. I know. Everything bad is the fault of Soros or some Democrat, and Republicans can never, ever, ever do anything wrong, because they are the purest, smartest, and whitest as the driven snow saints that ever walked the Earth.

    And… A President Kerry would’ve done much better.

    1. Ocean Railroader says:

      We wouldn’t be in the giant mess with the Middle East at least.

    2. Ziv says:

      Frank & Dodd rolled Sec Snow and the Bush administration. The Dems kept the cash flowing until the balloon burst. It is hard to vote against nearly free money for your constituents. OPM rules the day.

      ” 2003 September: Then-Treasury Secretary John Snow testifies before the House Financial Services Committee to recommend that Congress enact “legislation to create a new Federal agency to regulate and supervise the financial activities of our housing-related government sponsored enterprises” and set prudent and appropriate minimum capital adequacy requirements.
      2003 September: Then-House Financial Services Committee Ranking Member Barney Frank (D-MA) strongly disagrees with the Administration’s assessment, saying “these two entities – Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – are not facing any kind of financial crisis … The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.” (Stephen Labaton, “New Agency Proposed To Oversee Freddie Mac And Fannie Mae,” The New York Times, 9/11/03) “

  7. Ocean Railroader says:

    It sounds like that his work load is really huge and he is cutting it back to avoid getting burned out.

    As I remember watching a program about Elon Musk they did show he was working 12 to 16 hour work days with SpaceX and Tesla and it looked like he had very little personal life due to most of his major companies being in a very sensitive stage of their careers.

  8. ffbj says:

    I give him a C+. He bit off more than he could chew. The diesel scandal hurts his grade too.

  9. Bob Nan says:

    Good bye Gentleman Carlos Ghosn

    You brought Nissan from bankruptcy to profitability and successfully merged with Renault.
    You launched the Electric cars to success with Nissan (Leaf & NV200), Renault (Zoe & Kangoo).

    Please run a division to make and sell Electric cars of Renault & Nissan. Its very important and everyone are looking forward to the next generation Leaf with a higher range.

    We will remember you as a great architect of Electric vehicles among the mainstream automakers.

  10. SJC says:

    I have a suggestion for Nissan, don’t treat your LEAF customers like a nuisance. If you have a battery problem FIX it, don’t penny pinch and corner cut.

    1. Djoni says:

      And make an improve battery replacement available for those who made the succes of the Leaf.

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