TOKYO – Nissan Motor’s new chief executive Makoto Uchida called on Monday for strengthening and deepening ties with Renault and Mitsubishi Motors, although ruling out a merger with Renault in the immediate future.
Uchida was addressing media for the first time after assuming office as the CEO in October, as the company attempts to leave behind the scandal caused by the arrest and sacking of former CEO Carlos Ghosn.
The CEO said his priority was restoring investor’s confidence and ensuring transparency in the company, acknowledging that the past “misconduct” of executives had revealed problems in the management and corporate governance of the company.
Uchida said the problems had damaged Nissan’s reputation and led to a rapid decline in business results, referring to falling sales and operating profit between April and September, the first half of the Japanese fiscal year.
The CEO emphasized the importance of the alliance with Renault and Mitsubishi and said it lent a key competitive edge to the company.
He stressed that the alliance should be profitable for each company of the alliance, but backed Nissan’s independence.
He ruled out a merger with Renault by saying that each partner was dealing with “its own challenges” in the short term.
Uchida rejected speculation over possible merger negotiations between the two companies as “rumors,” insisting that his priority was trying to figure out how to improve the alliance.
The executive said that Nissan should push for innovation in areas such as shared transport as well as electric and self-driving vehicles in order to recover the sense of being a “trend-setting” company.
Uchida, who had been working as a senior vice-president of the group, was named CEO by the board of directors on Oct. 8, after Hiroto Saikawa quit the post in mid-September due to a series of financial transactions which the management deemed improper, although not illegal.
Saikawa’s exit came months after the scandal involving former CEO Ghosn – who has been accused of under-reporting compensation and breach of trust – which forced Nissan to adopt a new corporate structure focusing on transparent and collective leadership.
Ghosn’s downfall led to tensions between Renault and the second biggest Japanese carmaker, with Saikawa publicly calling for “more balanced” power-sharing structure between the two sides.
In this regard, on Friday the three-company alliance announced the establishment of the new post of secretary general, who would coordinate and lead joint projects under the authority of the Renault chairman, after a board meeting held on the outskirts of Paris, which was attended by Uchida.