Nis­san top exec Munoz re­signs amid broad­ened Ghosn probe

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Business - REUTERS

of Nis­san Mo­tor Co.’s top ex­ec­u­tives has re­signed, fur­ther rat­tling the Ja­panese au­tomaker’s man­age­ment team as it broad­ens an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into ousted Chair­man Car­los Ghosn’s al­leged fi­nan­cial mis­con­duct.

Jose Munoz, widely con­sid­ered as a close ally to Ghosn and a pos­si­ble suc­ces­sor to lead the au­tomak­ing part­ner­ship be­tween Nis­san and France’s Re­nault SA, had been a “per­son of in­ter­est” in Nis­san’s widen­ing in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The 53-year-old, who was Nis­san’s chief per­for­mance of­fi­cer and head of its China op­er­a­tions, made the an­nounce­ment in a LinkedIn post on Fri­day. In a state­ment, Nis­san said that Munoz had “elected to re­sign” from the com­pany, ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ately. It de­clined to of­fer de­tails.

He be­comes the lat­est ex­ec­u­tive ca­su­alty since Nis­san in Novem­ber re­moved Ghosn as chair­man and fired rep­re­sen­ta­tive di­rec­tor Greg Kelly.

The res­ig­na­tion deals an­other blow to the Ja­panese au­tomaker which is grap­pling with the scan­dal at a time when it is struggling to shore up prof­itabil­ity in the United States and ex­pand ag­gres­sively in China.

Reuters had re­ported ear­lier on Fri­day that the Ja­panese au­tomaker was look­ing into de­ci­sions made in the United States by Munoz who led Nis­san’s North Amer­i­can op­er­a­tions from 2016 to 2018.

“Un­for­tu­nately, Nis­san is cur­rently in­volved in mat­ters that have and will con­tinue to di­vert its fo­cus,” Munoz said in his post.

“As I have re­peat­edly and re­cently made clear to the com­pany, I look for­ward to con­tin­u­ing to as­sist Nis­san in its in­ves­ti­ga­tions.”

Peo­ple with knowl­edge of the is­sue have said that Munoz, who had been placed on a leave of ab­sence ear­lier in the month, had not been co-op­er­at­ing with the in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Ghosn, once the most cel­e­brated ex­ec­u­tives in the auto in­dus­try and the an­chor of Nis­san’s al­liance with Re­nault, re­mains in cus­tody in a Tokyo de­ten­tion cen­ter since his ini­tial ar­rest in late Novem­ber.

Ghosn has been in­dicted on two counts of un­der-re­port­ing his in­come, and ag­gra­vated breach of trust for tem­po­rar­ily shift­ing per­sonal in­vest­ment losses worth 1.85 bil­lion yen ($17 mil­lion) to Nis­san.

The scan­dal has sent shock­waves through the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try and has es­ca­lated ten­sions be­tween Nis­san and Re­nault, where Ghosn re­mains CEO and chair­man.

Munoz joined the au­tomaker in 2004 in Europe and led its sig­nif­i­cant ex­pan­sion in North Amer­ica af­ter the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis. Since then, Nis­san has suc­ceeded in rais­ing its mar­ket share in the United States and posted record sales.

Ear­lier this year, Nis­san tapped Munoz to over­see its op­er­a­tions in China where it plans to ramp up sales over the next few years.

Since then, the world’s largest auto mar­ket has been show­ing signs of a slow­down, prompt­ing the au­tomaker to cut lo­cal pro­duc­tion plans in the com­ing months.

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