YOKOHAMA, Japan -- Nissan will re-spark its electric vehicle sales and Mitsubishi will play a bigger role in the U.S.
Those are two of the top orders of business for Hiroto Saikawa, the first Japanese CEO of Nissan Motor Co. in 16 years, as he steps into a role held since 2001 by the aggressive Carlos Ghosn.
Saikawa tells Automotive News in his first interview with overseas media since taking office on April 1 that he will continue building on the successes Ghosn brought to Japan's No. 2 automaker, most recently through the six-year Nissan Power 88 business plan.
"Part of the next plan is going to be steady growth built on the foundation we made in the last six years," Saikawa said last week at Nissan's global headquarters here south of Tokyo. "You can say it's a kind of remaining homework from Nissan Power 88."
But more immediately, two trouble spots need attention: Nissan's slow-selling EVs and the business of Nissan's new global partner, Mitsubishi Motors Corp.
Saikawa said that the new Leaf EV arriving in Japan this year will resolve range anxiety in consumers' minds.
He also talked up Mitsubishi's future as a much bigger player in the U.S., going so far as to compare its brand potential to that of red-hot Subaru.
In a broad-ranging discussion, the congenial, brush-cut Nissan lifer said part of his mission as Ghosn's successor also would be preparing the next generation of leaders. At 63, Saikawa almost certainly will not match Ghosn's tenure at the helm.
He expects to reveal his first blueprint for Nissan's future this summer, synchronized with the strategies of Nissan's French alliance partner, Renault SA, and those of Mitsubishi. Saikawa said it likely would be a six-year plan that mops up some unfinished objectives of the Nissan Power 88 plan, which Ghosn introduced in 2011.
Reasserting Nissan's lead in EVs will be critical, as rivals from Detroit, Germany and South Korea promise to pile into the segment with multimodel EV fleets.