Nissan, Mitsubishi executives exit as Ghosn empire is dismantled

By BLOOMBERG

TOKYO • Executives from Nissan Motor Co Ltd and Mitsubishi Motors Corp are exiting as part of a wider shuffle among the top ranks of the Japanese automakers’ alliance with Renault SA following the arrest of Carlos Ghosn in November.

Arun Bajaj, the alliance’s senior VP for human resources, exited Nissan as of March 11 after a leave of absence, the Yokohama, Japanbased carmaker said in a statement yesterday. He had been involved in the probe related to charges against former chairman Ghosn. On the same day, Mitsubishi said Trevor Mann, handpicked by the auto titan to serve as the smaller automaker’s COO, will leave as of April 1.

The shuffling of key executives underscores the unwinding of a power structure built up during almost two decades by Ghosn, who is accused of falsifying financial records and breach of trust by Japanese prosecutors. That culminated in the formation this week of a new governance board for the three-way alliance.

Bajaj’s departure follows the January exit of former chief performance officer Jose Munoz, a close confidant of Ghosn. Mann, who was Munoz’s predecessor at Nissan, was sent to Mitsubishi in 2016 after Nissan took a stake in the carmaker.

Ghosn also handpicked former Nissan executives Mitsuhiko Yamashita and Vincent Cobee to help him rebuild Mitsubishi after its fuel-efficiency scandal. Cobee will also leave next month, while Yamashita will remain as an advisor.

Separately, Nissan said senior VP Jose Luis Valls will take on the additional responsibility of president of Nissan North America. Roland Krueger, former president of Nissan’s luxury brand Infiniti, also left in January to join Dyson Ltd’s automotive unit, which plans to sell an electric vehicle (EV) by 2021. Infiniti promoted sales and marketing chief Christian Meunier to succeed Krueger.

Some of the exits may impact Nissan’s ability to compete in electric cars, with some executives quitting to join aspiring start-ups in China.

Kazuo Yajima, a former alliance director for EVs who helped engineer the Leaf, left the company last year before the Ghosn saga, and joined Qoros Auto Co as CEO last month.

Qoros also hired former Nissan managers to take up other management roles including operations and development. — Bloomberg