Business / Corporate

Nissan picks new director candidate after sudden resignation by No. 3 executive

Kyodo, AFP-JIJI

Nissan Motor Co. said Friday its nomination committee has picked Hideyuki Sakamoto, an executive vice president, as a candidate for director after accepting the resignation of its No. 3 executive.

Sakamoto was previously a director from 2014 to June of this year. He will rejoin the board and replace Jun Seki, the vice chief operating officer, subject to approval at an extraordinary shareholders meeting in February.

But Sakamoto, currently in charge of Nissan’s production operations, will not become vice COO “for the time being” and the post will remain vacant, a Nissan spokesman said.

Sakamoto previously headed the company’s research and development operations as vice president, while working at the Brazilian unit of Renault.

The appointment comes after Nissan said this week it had accepted an offer by Seki to resign as vice COO less than a month after a new management team was launched.

It is widely believed Seki was in conflict with newly appointed CEO Makoto Uchida over how to deal with Nissan’s largest shareholder, Renault SA of France, which had previously pushed for their merger.

When Nissan announced Seki’s departure on Wednesday, Nissan shares plunged 3.09 percent to ¥633.4 on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Makoto Sengoku, market analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Institute, said Seki’s resignation came at “an impossible timing.”

“He was the No. 3 and was supposed to be a central figure to drive the reform. It was inevitable that such a man’s departure spawned caution towards Nissan,” Sengoku said.

“It’s an urgent task for Nissan to revamp itself but there is a doubt over how stable its leadership is,” he said.

The repeated changes in its board members comes as the company is struggling with faltering earnings following the ouster of former Chairman Carlos Ghosn.

The carmaker also needs to strengthen its alliance with Renault to meet growing demand for connected, autonomous, shared and electric vehicles.

At the extraordinary shareholders meeting on Feb. 18, Nissan will seek to gain approval for the new management team headed by CEO Uchida.

Seki is expected to move to electric motor-maker Nidec Corp. in February based on a promise that he will become its president in the future, sources close to the matter said earlier.