Business / Corporate

Top Nissan executive heads to electric-motor firm Nidec, creating new distraction for scandal-hit automaker

Bloomberg, Kyodo

Nissan Motor Co. said Wednesday its third-highest-ranked executive is leaving the company, in an abrupt move that deals yet another blow to the scandal-plagued Japanese carmaker.

Nissan said in a statement it accepted the resignation but did not disclose the reasons for the departure of Jun Seki, who took the automaker’s No. 3 post of vice chief operating officer on Dec. 1. He was tasked with spearheading the implementation of its restructuring measures.

Seki is set to join leading Japanese electric-motor manufacturer Nidec Corp. as president and chief operating officer. The 58-year-old, who has confirmed the move, was among the contenders to be Nissan’s chief executive officer in October but missed out to Makoto Uchida, who was until recently the company’s China chief.

Nissan has seen its share of executive departures since last year’s shock arrest of former longtime chief Carlos Ghosn, but Seki’s exit stands out because he was part of a triumvirate set up to disperse leadership responsibilities at the automaker, Japan’s third largest by output. The defection marks yet another distraction for Nissan, which is struggling to recover from the chaos unleashed by Ghosn’s arrest and an industry downturn, with profits at a decade-low and relations tense with French partner Renault SA.

The departure of Seki, who spent most of his career in engineering and manufacturing at Nissan, comes at a precarious time for the company and the auto sector, with established carmakers seeking scale through consolidation as a way of splitting the billions of dollars in investments needed to keep up with the shift toward electric and self-driving cars.

Seki will be joining a company that makes about an eighth of Nissan’s sales, but has a market value that’s more than 60 percent higher at about ¥4.5 trillion ($41 billion). Known for its precision products, Nidec is the world’s No. 1 supplier of hard-drive motors. The manufacturer is seeking to become a top supplier for electric vehicles, home appliances and industrial and commercial equipment, with the goal of reaching ¥10 trillion in annual sales by fiscal 2030.

Shigenobu Nagamori, Nidec’s billionaire CEO, founded the company in 1973 in a shack next to his family’s farmhouse. The outspoken chairman appointed Hiroyuki Yoshimoto, another Nissan veteran, as COO in 2018. Nagamori, 75, is known as a deal-maker, having bought scores of companies under his tenure, and for his hard-charging management style.

Nissan’s management has been on shaky ground since Ghosn was arrested for financial crimes in November 2018. Hiroto Saikawa, Ghosn’s successor-turned-accuser, stepped down as CEO earlier this year amid a scandal over excess compensation.

Seki joined the Yokohama-based automaker in 1986, meaning new CEO Uchida and COO Ashwani Gupta will now have to fill a void left by the departure of the member of their team with the most experience within Nissan.

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