Carlos Ghosn was nothing short of a celebrity in Japan. He carefully cultivated the image of a rebel outsider, but operated successfully enough within Japan Inc. to be adopted as something of a national hero after resuscitating Nissan Motor Co. He took on the system, yet scored its biggest victories when it was still intact.

Ghosn ended up taking advantage of the permissive establishment that he was picking apart. That style caught up with him as the corporate culture (slowly) mended its ways under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic reforms. Ghosn was seen to be making choices based on personal relationships. He spent the last few years building his own legacy, attempting to force together two vastly different auto giants in Nissan and Renault SA, causing yet more discomfort. Nissan’s aggressive sales tactics in the United States led to faltering performance while Ghosn talked up futuristic mobility.

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