Nissan Motor Co. CEO Carlos Ghosn announced Thursday he will become chairman of Mitsubishi Motors Corp., vowing to help reform the struggling automaker.
The news adds yet another leadership title to Ghosn’s resume alongside posts at Nissan and its major stakeholder Renault of France. He also said Mitsubishi’s current chairman and CEO, Osamu Masuko, will stay on as CEO.
“I speak for all of us when I say we will give our absolute commitment to support Mitsubishi Motors,” Ghosn said during a hastily arranged joint news conference with Mitsubishi in Tokyo. He will officially become Mitsubishi’s chairman after a shareholders meeting later this year.
Also on Thursday, Nissan completed a ¥237 billion injection into the ailing automaker, becoming its largest shareholder with a 34 percent stake. The Tokyo-based firm is seeking a path to recovery from a fuel-efficiency scandal, and with this move it joins the Nissan-Renault alliance.
When combining the sales of Mitsubishi cars, the alliance is likely to sell 10 million units this fiscal year ending March, Nissan said.
This means the alliance is now catching up with the top three auto giants, Toyota Volkswagen and General Motors, in terms of vehicle sales.
Ghosn said Mitsubishi Motors, which revealed in April that it falsified the fuel efficiency data of its vehicles, is on a solid track of reform.
But “more (is) certainly needed. Rebuilding trust is a No. 1 priority,” said the Brazilian-born French leader, who, when he rebuilt Nissan, gained a reputation as a brutal cost-cutter.
“I feel very reassured that Mr. Ghosn will become the chairman. But at the same time, he told us that (the scandal) is Mitsubishi’s own issue, so we need to strive to solve it by ourselves” while being supported by Nissan, Masuko said.
Ghosn said Nissan will provide human resources and restructuring know-how to reform Mitsubishi, but “I have no intention to interfere with the management,” he said.
The chairman’s job is to check whether there is enough transparency in management, if corporate governance is working, and how the firm is doing with its mid-term plan, he said.
Ghosn said he asked Masuko, who had intended to resign from the CEO post to take responsibility of the scandal, to stay, as he has worked with Masuko for many years and trusts him.
The fuel-efficiency scandal came to light in April, as the firm revealed that employees falsified fuel-efficiency data for four minicar models, which resulted in suspension of manufacturing and sales of the cars.
The four models included the Dayz and Dayz Roox, which Mitsubishi made for Nissan.
Masuko said he met with Ghosn after the scandal and asked for help, which led to the capital tie-up.
Ghosn has said that Mitsubishi’s participation in the Nissan-Renault alliance is a win-win relationship. Possible synergies include purchasing parts jointly to lower manufacturing costs and sharing technologies and factories, he said.
Asked if job cuts are needed to maximize the synergy effect, Ghosn said he believed heavy restructuring was not necessary.
Masuko said Mitsubishi Motors is expected to see ¥25 billion in a synergy effect annually from 2017.
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