Sunday 8 September 2019 6:30 pm

Nissan chief 'tells executives he plans to resign' after torrid year

Nissan boss Hiroto Saikawa is believed to have told executives that he plans to resign from the top job at the troubled Japanese car maker.

Board members are already scheduled to meet early on Monday morning, where they will likely discuss finding a new Nissan boss. They are said to have already drawn up a list of potential replacements and approached several of them, as the company tries to break free of the damaging legacy of former chairman Carlos Ghosn, who was arrested for financial misconduct last year.

Read more: Nissan and Renault workers left with ‘nothing to do’ after Ghosn arrest

But according to Japan’s Nikkei newspaper, Saikawa may jump before he is pushed. His decision is said to have been prompted by growing doubts over his ability to steer the automotive giant to recovery. Nissan reported a 98.5 per cent plunge in operating profit in the first quarter of 2019, and over the summer announced it was slashing 12,000 jobs across the globe.

Nissan was not available for comment.

The company has already come under pressure to find a new boss this year. Saikawa was only re-elected as Nissan boss at its annual shareholder meeting in June because the firm’s European business partner Renault voted 43 per cent in his favour. 

Proxy advisory services Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass Lewis both advised investors to vote against his reappointment. They said his close links to the disgraced Carlos Ghosn made it hard to consider him completely separate from alleged wrongdoing.

Disgraced former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn (Getty Images)

Pay scandal rumbles on

It will not count in Saikawa’s favour that the company’s long-running scandal over executive pay was given a new lease of life last week, after her admitted that he was overpaid in violation of internal company rules via a scheme designed by Ghosn himself.

Saikawa admitted to reporters outside his home in Japan on Thursday that the incentive scheme’s operation had been “different to what it should have been”, according to local press reports.

Read more: Nissan boss admits overpayment

He said the scheme was one of several “from the Ghosn era”, but denied any active role in it, and said he planned to return excess payments.

Separate from the issue of finding a new Nissan boss, disciplinary action for Saikawa will likely be discussed at the upcoming board meeting on Monday. Ghosn is awaiting trial in Japan after being accused of siphoning off tens-of-millions of pounds-worth of Nissan funds for himself.