YOKOHAMA, Japan — As Makoto Uchida gears up to rebuild the beleaguered Nissan Motor Co., there is a glaring blank spot on the new CEO's resume: U.S. work experience.
That might be a challenge for any leader trying to reboot Nissan's flagging fortunes in that key market. The U.S. is one of the carmaker's biggest cash cows, but it has devolved into a profit-draining problem child in need of urgent discipline.
Yet, to hear Uchida tell it, his career arc is perfectly suited to the task.
The guitar-playing, car-guy chief executive says he has never stayed in the same job more than two and a half years. He masters one duty, he says, then moves to the next.
"That means one of my strengths is to be very adaptable to different circumstances," Uchida said in an interview at Nissan's global headquarters here south of Tokyo.
"I should have an instant ramp-up to knowing about the U.S.," he predicted.
Uchida's comments, delivered shortly after taking office Dec. 1, underscore the confidence the 53-year-old brings to the job of forging a "new Nissan" after a year of tumult.
The to-do list is long. Uchida must restore trust in a company still reeling from the November 2018 arrest of its guiding leader, then-Chairman Carlos Ghosn. Making matters worse, Ghosn burst back onto the public scene last week when he jumped bail in Japan and escaped to Lebanon. Ghosn is threatening to air Nissan management's alleged misdeeds publicly, just as the new CEO is trying to get the company, its retailers and its customers to move on.
Uchida also must repair frayed relations with Nissan's 20-year partner and top shareholder, Renault, and he must somehow reverse the company's plunging sales and profitability.
As for a U.S. revival, he says, much of that plan is already in motion.
The tough-love strategy was outlined in May by former CEO Hiroto Saikawa. It calls for curbing profit-eroding incentives and fleet sales, even if that results in falling volume in the short term. In the end, the plan is to rebuild U.S. sales to 1.4 million units in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2023, or roughly what it was in 2018.
Uchida says his job is to stay the course and make it a reality.
"A lot of foundation has been built," Uchida said. "My responsibility is how to make this more visible. That is my mission. To make it visible internally and visible to the customer."