TOKYO — Nissan has appointed Jose Valls its new chairman for North America just three months after promoting him to vice chairman, as the company battles slumping U.S. sales amid a changing strategy.
He replaces Denis Le Vot, who will return to alliance partner Renault after just 14 months in the U.S.
Valls' appointment, effective April, was announced Wednesday as part of a wider management shuffle at Nissan Motor Co. Valls will hand his Latin America chairmanship duties to Guy Rodriguez, who is currently divisional vice president of Latin America marketing and sales.
Valls, 51, was named vice chairman in December and started that role Jan. 2.
Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa said last month he is promoting Valls to spearhead a turnaround in North America, where the Japanese carmaker's profitability and sales have suffered.
"I'm counting a lot on Mr. Valls," Saikawa said at Nissan's financial earnings announcement.
"In the past, he has done a very good job of delivering results," Saikawa said. "He excels in selling based on value. That's why we appointed Mr. Valls."
Since last year, when Saikawa began reversing the U.S. strategy of predecessor Carlos Ghosn, Nissan's U.S. performance has been in decline. Saikawa has been openly critical of Ghosn's reliance on profit-eroding incentives and fleet sales to reach market share targets.
Nissan Group's U.S. retail sales fell 6.3 percent to 1.49 million vehicles last year in an overall market that rose 0.6 percent.
Nissan Group's U.S. volume further tumbled 15 percent through February. That is a big problem for a Japanese automaker that gets 40 percent of its profits from the United States.
Valls, who joined Nissan in 2011, has run the sprawling multimarket South American region. He directed the launch of manufacturing operations in Argentina and previously was key in operating Nissan's most successful market — Mexico.
Valls has a master's degree in management from the University of California, Berkeley, and an undergraduate accounting degree from Pontificia Universidad Catolica Santa Maria in Argentina.
Separately, Arun Bajaj, formerly the global head of human relations for the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, left the company on March 11. Bajaj had been on leave of absence since at least January, following the arrest of former chairman Carlos Ghosn.
During his leave, Bajaj was cooperating with Japanese prosecutors, a person familiar with the matter said. Nissan declined to give a reason for his departure from the company.
In another alliance personnel move, Mitsubishi COO Trevor Mann is leaving the company and will be replaced by Ashwani Gupta, currently senior vice president for the alliance's global commercial vehicles, effective April 1.