Newly promoted to CEO at Nissan Motor Co., Hiroto Saikawa will bring a gruff, tough, no-nonsense approach to leading Japan's second-biggest car maker at a time of rapid technological change in the industry.
The 63-year-old takes over in April from Carlos Ghosn, who engineered Nissan's recovery from years of losses and debt through broad cost-cutting and dismantling the traditionally close ties with suppliers -- the informal keiretsu network once key to Japan Inc.'s success.
Saikawa, who joined Nissan from Tokyo University 40 years ago, has been groomed to take over from Ghosn, who was dubbed "Le Cost Killer" after making his mark at Michelin and then Renault, Nissan's main alliance partner.
"There is no difference between what I think and what he thinks," Ghosn said at a news conference in October when Saikawa was appointed co-CEO of Nissan.
People who have worked with Saikawa say he, too, is an aggressive cost-cutter, who won't shy away from tough decisions if they can improve efficiency.
"Ghosn sees Saikawa as his equal," said one executive who worked under Saikawa when he was chief competitive officer from 2013, noting Saikawa is one of the longest-serving members of Nissan's executive committee.
After Ghosn, "Saikawa is the most decorated man in terms of producing tangible results," said another senior Nissan group executive, who has also worked with Saikawa for many years.
"He doesn't hold back," one of the executives said. "He's not afraid to embarrass people in a big meeting if he thinks they're not doing the job. Some people might not like him for that, (but) he's very strict, very strong and aggressive."