Ghosn Out As Head Of U.S. Market At Nissan; Company Also Cuts Japanese Production

Ghosn will continue as CEO of both Nissan and Renault; two factories in Japan expected to close.

TOKYO (AP)- Carlos Ghosn, the charismatic chief executive who led Nissan to a turnaround, will give up his role overseeing the U.S. market for Nissan as part of a shake-up to strengthen management at the Japanese automaker, the company said Friday.

Ghosn remains CEO of both Nissan Motor Co. and its alliance partner Renault SA of France, which sent in Ghosn to lead the revival in 1999.

Nissan officials denied the move was in response to criticism that Ghosn had spread himself too thin, holding the helm at both Nissan and Renault, as well being responsible for the U.S. market. Ghosn will continue to oversee global operations, and the changes are aimed at allowing for more focus on each region, they said.

The management expansion comes at a time when Nissan, Japan's No. 3 automaker, is struggling to boost sales not only in Japan but also other regions.

Separately, Nissan said Friday it will cut auto production at two factories in Japan because of slow domestic sales. Nissan spokeswoman Pauline Kee didn't disclose the size of the cutback but said it will affect production at factories in Kanagawa and Tochigi prefectures.

Last month, Nissan slashed its annual profit forecast after seeing a 22 percent slump in earnings in the October-December quarter. At the time, President Carlos Ghosn declared a ''performance crisis'' at the Japanese automaker, and had promised to ''introduce new energy into the management.''

Speculation had been rife that some managers may need to take blame and perhaps more drastic changes were in store.

Under the latest shake-up, some new executives were named, five individuals were named corporate officers while six were retiring or leaving Nissan. Chief Operating Officer Toshiyuki Shiga, No. 2 at Nissan after Ghosn, will continue to oversee Japan operations.

Colin Dodge, senior vice president of manufacturing for Nissan Europe, will take on Shiga's role as head of general overseas markets, including China operations, the company said in a statement.

Hiroto Saikawa, executive vice president, and purchasing expert with extensive experience in Europe, will take on the role overseeing the U.S. market, and Hidetoshi Imazu, with experience in production engineering, will take on Saikawa's role in charge of Europe, it said.

''We want to go stronger with our new management and embark on fiscal 2007,'' Hitoshi Kawaguchi, a Nissan senior vice president in charge of human resources, told reporters.

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