TOKYO – Jose Munoz, Nissan’s hard-charging chief performance officer and the man who drove the company’s U.S. sales to record highs, is leaving the Japanese carmaker as the scandal swirling around the suspected financial misconduct of ousted former Chairman Carlos Ghosn widens.
Munoz’s departure comes just days after Nissan Motor Co. said the executive had taken a leave of absence to focus on “special tasks” relating to the ongoing investigation of Ghosn, who was arrested in Japan on Nov. 19 and now faces three indictments.
Munoz, 53, in a message to colleagues obtained by Automotive News, said he had decided to leave the company after “some period of serious contemplation.” He promised to help Nissan with its probe.
“Unfortunately, Nissan is currently involved in matters that have and will continue to divert its focus,” Munoz said. “As I have repeatedly and recently made clear to the company, I look forward to continuing to assist Nissan in its investigations.”
A Nissan spokesman confirmed Munoz’s resignation, saying it was effective immediately.
The developments underscore how the deepening Ghosn scandal is spilling over to operations worldwide. Munoz was a high-profile leader at the company who was often tipped to be the successor to current CEO Hiroto Saikawa.
Also on leave of absence is Senior Vice President Arun Bajaj, who heads human resources at Nissan as well as talent development at the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance. Bajaj is cooperating with Japanese prosecutors in their investigation of Ghosn, a person familiar with the matter said.