Nissan’s new boss said Thursday a top priority was to restore trust after the scandal over former chief Carlos Ghosn roiled the Japanese carmaker and its uneasy three-way alliance with Renault and Mitsubishi.
In his first foreign media interview since taking office on December 1, Makoto Uchida told AFP he wanted everything laid bare “without hiding,” as he seeks to regain credibility and sales for the once-mighty auto giant.
“The difficulties of the past may have sometimes left people insecure in terms of what they are doing. So it is my job to go back to the basics,” said the new boss, in a clear reference to the Ghosn scandal that resulted in his arrest over financial misconduct.
Uchida said he wanted everyone in the three-way alliance to “respect each other… understand each other… be transparent, put any problem or issue on the table, without hiding. To show everything.”
“Once we start to do this, definitely the trust will come…. this is one of my first priorities,” stressed Uchida, speaking to AFP on the 21st floor of the Nissan headquarters in Yokohama, in the Tokyo suburbs.
The 53-year-old, who was previously in charge of Nissan activities in China as well as alliance group purchasing, has taken the reins at one of the most difficult moments in the company’s long history.
The new CEO has a mountain to climb to restore Nissan to health in an industry in turmoil, undergoing a once-in-a-generation restructuring.
The firm was last month forced to slash its full-year forecast for both sales and profits, admitting it had been hit by weak demand in Japan, the US and Europe.
This came as Nissan reported its worst first-half results since the global financial crisis a decade ago.
Uchida said he didn’t feel Nissan had been “left behind versus the others” despite recent difficulties but “definitely we have to further enhance our strengths in order for us to keep competitive in the market.”
‘Right product, right market’
Uchida declined to be drawn on the issue of Brexit, stressing that the company was “preparing for what external things may come in the future.”
Former chief executive Hiroto Saikawa resigned in September after an investigation prompted by the Ghosn scandal revealed he was among Nissan executives who received excess pay by altering the terms of a share price bonus.
Uchida inherits the harsh cost-cutting measures Saikawa proposed as a way out of the crisis.
These include reducing dealer incentives and promotions but also cutting global production by 10 percent to 2023 — a measure that means the loss of 12,500 jobs.
The new boss said such plans “always sound like a restructuring” but that actually his strategic priority was to ensure focus on “the right product, the right market for the customers.”
Ghosn says that he was brought down in a “plot” by Nissan insiders because he wanted to bring the Japanese company closer to France-based Renault.
Renault holds 43 percent of Nissan, which in turn has a 15-percent stake in Renault and a 34-percent controlling stake in Mitsubishi Motors.
The alliance has always been an “important asset” that has overcome “past incidents,” said Uchida.
The tie-up now has to focus on developing future products together and identifying potential market difficulties for each company, he said.