Nissan has appointed Hiroto Saikawa chief executive officer, replacing current CEO Carlos Ghosn, who will remain chair of the company’s board of directors as he turns to focus on developing an alliance with Renault and Mitsubishi Motors.

Mr Ghosn, who is also chair of the alliance’s other two companies, said in an announcement on Thursday morning:

As Nissan’s Chairman, I will continue to supervise and guide the company, both independently and within the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance. This planned change will also allow me to devote more time and energy to managing the strategic and operational evolution and expansion of the Alliance and ensuring that all its members benefit from the competitive advantages that its scale will deliver. I am committed to supporting the Alliance as it evolves and expands, and will continue to serve each member of the Alliance wherever and whenever necessary.

On February 10 Mr Ghosn said the French carmaker and Nissan were open to forging closer ties if Paris sells its stake in the former, adding that “the day the French state decides to get out, everything is open”.

Renault rescued Nissan from near-collapse in 1999, and the two companies formed an alliance that involves each holding an equity stake in the other. But Renault wields de facto control over Nissan, which led to tensions between the companies in 2015 when Paris increased its stake in the French carmaker.

Mr Saikawa is the current co-CEO and a representative director of Nissan, where he was chief competitive officer from 2013 to 2016. He has been with the company since 1977, and also currently serves as chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.

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