Nissan, Mitsubishi Executives Exit as Ghosn Empire Is Dismantled
(Bloomberg) -- Executives from Nissan Motor Co. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. are exiting as part of a wider shuffle among the top ranks of the Japanese automakers’ alliance with Renault SA following the arrest of Carlos Ghosn in November.
Arun Bajaj, the alliance’s senior vice president for human resources, exited Nissan as of March 11 after a leave of absence, the Yokohama, Japan-based carmaker said in a statement Wednesday. He had been involved in the probe related to charges against former Chairman Ghosn. On the same day, Mitsubishi said Trevor Mann, handpicked by the auto titan to serve as the smaller automaker’s chief operating officer, will leave as of April 1.
The shuffling of key executives underscores the unwinding of a power structure built up during almost two decades by Ghosn, who is accused of falsifying financial records and breach of trust by Japanese prosecutors. That culminated in the formation this week of a new governance board for the three-way alliance. While Nissan needs to reboot growth in the U.S. and China and stake out a strategy for growth in electric vehicles, Mitsubishi is fending off increasing competition from Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. in Southeast Asia.
Bajaj’s departure follows the January exit of former Chief Performance Officer Jose Munoz, a close confidant of Ghosn. Mann, who was Munoz’s predecessor at Nissan, was sent to Mitsubishi in 2016 after Nissan took a stake in the carmaker.
Ghosn also handpicked former Nissan executives Mitsuhiko Yamashita and Vincent Cobee to help him rebuild Mitsubishi after its fuel-efficiency scandal. Cobee will also leave next month, while Yamashita will remain as an adviser.
Separately, Nissan said SVP Jose Luis Valls will take on the additional responsibility of president of Nissan North America. Roland Krueger, former president of Nissan’s luxury brand Infiniti, also left in January to join Dyson Ltd.’s automotive unit, which plans to sell an electric vehicle by 2021. Infiniti promoted sales and marketing chief Christian Meunier to succeed Krueger.
Some of the exits may impact Nissan’s ability to compete in electric cars, with some executives quitting to join aspiring startups in China. Kazuo Yajima, a former alliance director for EVs who helped engineer the Leaf, left the company last year before the Ghosn saga, and joined Qoros Auto Co. as CEO last month. Qoros also hired former Nissan managers to take up other management roles including operations and development.
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