Leadership Turmoil In Nissan After Top Executive Ashwani Gupta Quits

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Nissan top executive Ashwani Gupta is leaving the company, the Japanese automaker said Friday, in a surprise departure that will revive concerns about the stability of the firm’s leadership.

Gupta was part of an executive troika announced in October 2019, as the company struggled to regain its footing following the arrest of former chief Carlos Ghosn.

As the chief operating officer, the Indian national quickly became one of the firm’s primary public faces, looming large at quarterly earnings press conferences, and was tipped as a potential future CEO.

But ahead of Friday’s announcement, a source close to the matter told AFP Gupta was stepping down, citing in part “rivalry” between him and chief executive Makoto Uchida.

“He had a very clear ambition to take the top job. He wasn’t forced out, but he had understood” that it wouldn’t be possible, the source said.

Nissan said Gupta had “elected to leave the company to pursue other opportunities effective June 27”, without detailing the reasons for his departure.

A new executive line-up will be announced on the same date, the carmaker said.

The Financial Times first reported Gupta’s surprise departure on Thursday, saying Uchida and Gupta had clashed, with the latter seen as sometimes overstepping his role and undermining his boss.

The newspaper also said Gupta faced “multiple internal complaints”, though it did not detail their contents.

Nissan said Thursday that “independent third parties have been retained to verify facts, and carry on appropriate actions”, but declined to comment further.

– Tensions with Renault –

Nissan has reeled in recent years from a series of blows, including Ghosn’s arrest and subsequent internal turmoil, as well as plunging sales, and the effects of the pandemic and supply chain disruptions.

It has also weathered rocky relations with its French alliance partner Renault, with Ghosn alleging the charges against him were levelled to block his attempts to bring the two firms closer together.

Earlier this year, Nissan and Renault signed a deal to reboot their troubled 24-year relationship, following months of painstaking negotiations and repeated delays.

Under the agreement, Renault will slash its stake in Nissan, which will in turn take a stake of up to 15 per cent in Renault’s new electric vehicle venture Ampere.

The Financial Times said Renault executives had long viewed Gupta as “one of the biggest obstacles in negotiations between the alliance partners” because he consistently rejected the French company’s demands.

They said Masakazu Toyoda, a second senior director at the firm who opposed Nissan taking a stake in Ampere, had also been forced out.

Gupta’s departure leaves only Uchida remaining of the three men appointed in 2019 to right the ship after the chaos of Ghosn’s arrest.

Jun Seki, who was appointed number three at the firm, quit just weeks after taking the job.

Gupta’s departure is a “loss for Nissan”, given he was a “driving force of bringing a battered Nissan back from the brink”, said Tatsuo Yoshida, an auto analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence.

“Gupta’s departure may raise concerns about Nissan’s stability and well-balanced top management,” he added.

Former auto titan Ghosn was arrested in November 2018 over alleged financial misconduct, and was out on bail in Japan when he fled the country, eventually arriving in Lebanon.

He remains an international fugitive and denies the allegations against him. He said he fled Japan because he did not believe he could receive a fair trial.

His arrest prompted an internal investigation that resulted in then-CEO Hiroto Saikawa resigning over excess pay.

 

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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