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Nissan Appoints New VP Makoto Uchida and COO Ashwani Gupta

Nissan Motor named the head of its Chinese enterprise as its next CEO on Tuesday, picking an executive recognized for close connections to prime shareholder Renault and for a frank, straight-talking method that has listed him as an outsider.

By selecting Senior VP Makoto Uchida, Nissan’s board has gone with someone barely at odds with its traditional company culture. He joined the car manufacturer mid-career back in 2003, a rarity in a nation where prime representatives usually spend their entire working lives at the same firm.

Recognized for his unflagging work ethic and relentless focus on cost management, Uchida was described by one long-time partner who spoke on the condition of anonymity as an “outsider with a Japanese face” – to the point in discussions.

He will be joined by newly named Chief Operating Officer Ashwani Gupta, currently COO of junior partner Mitsubishi Motors, in trying to find new methods to revive a business that has been grappling for months with diving profits, management scandal and spats with Renault.

Japan’s second-largest auto manufacturer has been shaken in particular by the arrest of former Chairman Carlos Ghosn in 2018 on accusations of financial misconduct, which he dismisses, and the more recent removal of CEO Hiroto Saikawa after he admitted to being severely overpaid.

One source close to Renault described the selection as “a win for the alliance”, saying that Uchida as well as Gupta knew the business and had been ready to help Nissan get better.