YOKOHAMA, Japan — Nissan Motor Co.'s next boss must be a charismatic, inspiring leader with convincing powers of persuasion, says the director leading the carmaker's CEO search.
"These are the qualifications," nomination committee Chairman Masakazu Toyoda said last week while announcing that Nissan planned to pick the new head by the end of October.
Hiroto Saikawa, the chief executive who just resigned after two years, was arguably little of that.
When Saikawa took office in 2017, at age 63, many saw him as a caretaker who would smoothly transition Nissan from the Carlos Ghosn era into a younger generation of leadership.
Instead, Saikawa's tenure was marked by fitful policy shifts and unprecedented scandal at the Japanese auto company. In contrast to Ghosn's highly visible industry-alpha-dog persona, Saikawa often stayed behind the scenes throughout the crises and was faulted by critics who said he failed to communicate big-picture visions for the company.
"We see issues around Mr. Saikawa," Chairman Yasushi Kimura conceded last week at a hastily called late-night press conference to announce Saikawa's departure, effective Monday, Sept. 16. "Replacing the top executive will enable the company to be a leader in the auto industry."
Removing Saikawa provides a sharp break with the Ghosn era and paves the way for a fresh start under leadership not so closely associated with the tainted former chairman.
Saikawa, now 65, was a loyal lieutenant during much of Ghosn's 19-year tenure and even was co-CEO with Ghosn during a one-year transition before becoming solo CEO in 2017.
But Saikawa then overturned many of Ghosn's signature business strategies, such as Nissan's focus on volume and market share. He also presided over a profit plunge, worsening U.S. sales and the spectacle of Ghosn being arrested, thrown in jail and indicted in Japan on several charges of financial misconduct at the company.