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Nissan-Renault alliance

Nissan picks China head Uchida as new CEO

Choice of Mitsubishi's Gupta as COO signals move to collective leadership

New CEO Makoto Uchida has long been involved in joint projects with Renault. He has also been deeply involved in Nissan's growth strategy, including serving at the main subsidiary in China, a key market.

TOKYO -- Nissan Motor has named the head of its China business as the new CEO and appointed two other top executives as the automaker tries to bring stability to management following a series of governance scandals.

Senior Vice President Makoto Uchida, 53, will take the helm no later than Jan. 1, Nissan said Tuesday. The decision was reported earlier by Nikkei.

Ashwani Gupta, 49, chief operating officer of Mitsubishi Motors, has been appointed COO.

Uchida will take over for Hiroto Saikawa, who resigned as CEO last month amid a pay scandal. Saikawa himself had replaced long-serving chief Carlos Ghosn, who was dismissed last year following his arrest in Japan on suspicion of financial misdeeds.

Senior Vice President Jun Seki, 58, another former Nissan China chief, has been named vice chief operating officer to support Gupta.

The decision to select three top figures shows a reluctance to appoint a single powerful leader after the troubles with Ghosn and Saikawa.

"We were able to take a quick decision because we had a consensus," Nissan board Chairman Yasushi Kimura told reporters Tuesday, referring to the company's initial plan to appoint the permanent CEO by the end of October.

"While some people claim strong leadership is necessary, there are some opposing views," Kimura said. "We made a framework for collective leadership, where leaders support each other."

Uchida brings lengthy involvement in joint projects with Renault, the French automaker leading a longtime alliance with Nissan. The executive has deep experience with Nissan's growth strategy, including serving as president of its joint venture with Dongfeng Motor Group in China, a key market.

Yasuhiro Yamauchi, the current chief operating officer, is serving as interim CEO.

Nissan looks to ensure a smooth succession with Dongfeng and Mitsubishi by January, but said the three appointed executives might take their new posts sooner.

In choosing Uchida as CEO, Nissan cited the importance he places on the alliance with Renault, which has been strained since Ghosn's arrest last November.

"Mr. Uchida told me he wanted to join Nissan because he believed the alliance had great value," said Masakazu Toyoda, who chairs the nominating committee.

Uchida's experience with Nissan, Renault, Dongfeng and trading company Nissho Iwai makes him "appropriate as a leader who can navigate a difficult period like now," Toyoda said.

Saikawa stepped down Sept. 16. He also was blamed for failing to prevent the alleged misconduct by Ghosn, who held a tight grip over the entire Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi automotive alliance before his arrest.

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