That has been a trouble area for Nissan in recent years. Under the powerful, visionary leader Carlos Ghosn for 19 years, and even under his short-termed successor, Hiroto Saikawa, local markets did what they were told. Nissan's biggest market — the United States — pursued and even achieved an aggressive market share goal set by the home office. In addition to being costly, the exercise soured many retailers and managers on the company.
Last week, Nissan named Uchida as part of a trio of lesser-known executives to bring about what Nissan board Chairman Yasushi Kimura called "a new Nissan."
Uchida, 53, along with newly named COO Ashwani Gupta, 49, and vice COO Jun Seki, 58, will make up a management team that is younger, internationally minded and newly committed to working with Nissan's French partner Renault. And maybe more important, a year after Ghosn's controversial arrest and the ensuing implosion of Nissan's executive ranks, it is a team untainted by scandal.
Uchida's first test might be to once again balk at home office expectations.
The new CEO inherits a midterm plan created by Saikawa before he resigned as CEO last month. But last week, Kimura made it clear that the new team has free rein to chart its own recovery course for the troubled carmaker. Some directors think an all-new midterm business plan is needed, said a person familiar with the board's thinking.
"The new CEO may have to develop a new plan because the current one may no longer hold," the person said. "A review of that will be one of the first questions that will be asked of them."
Indeed, Uchida and Gupta were specifically picked in large part to make a fresh start, to break from a year marred by former Chairman Ghosn's arrest on charges of financial misconduct and Saikawa's sudden departure under the cloud of his own pay scandal.
"We selected people who could represent a new Nissan in a strong way," Kimura said.
Critics say not being able to say "no" to HQ is what landed Nissan in its current financial troubles, marked by profit-draining incentives and fleet sales that ultimately undercut global earnings. The whiplash in North America resulted in a squeeze that virtually wiped out corporate profits in the most recent quarter.
In China, Uchida also pushed back on electric-vehicle sales goals sent from Yokohama, which locals in China knew were unrealistic.
"We all knew it was not executable," the China associate said of meeting the sales goal from HQ. "Or if we did, we'd have to sacrifice a lot of profitability. He convinced the company to move back the electrification market share in order for us to focus on profitable, sustainable growth."
Masakazu Toyoda, the director in charge of Nissan's nomination committee, said of the work ahead, "The most important thing for the company is the recovery plan. Performance recovery should be completed, and this is the biggest challenge that we are addressing."
The road map laid out by Saikawa in May calls for trimming the vehicle lineup, cutting capacity and slashing thousands of jobs in an effort to reverse imploding profits over the next four years.
It also aims to restore parent company operating profit margin to 6 percent in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2023. It languished at 0.1 percent in the quarter ended June 30.
But it could be a while before Uchida and Gupta make any course corrections. They will take their new posts no later than Jan. 1. Interim CEO Yasuhiro Yamauchi continues until the handover.
They will need time to reassess the situation.
Both men break with traditional Japanese corporate culture in notable ways. They are relatively young, internationally minded, and both are midcareer transfers into the company — not lifers recruited straight out of college. Uchida joined in 2003 and Gupta, a former Honda executive in India, in 2006.