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YOKOHAMA -- The executive tasked with leading a recovery at Nissan Motor Co. said he had decided to resign just weeks into his new job, a move that could disrupt the automaker's push to turn the corner on scandal and slumping sales.

Jun Seki, Nissan's vice COO and a former contender for CEO, told Reuters he was leaving to become the president of Nidec Corp., a Kyoto-based manufacturer of automotive components and precision motors.

He will likely depart in January after three decades at Nissan, including a stint heading its China business.

"I love Nissan and I feel bad about leaving the turnaround work unfinished, but I am 58 years old, and this is an offer I could not refuse. It's probably my last chance to lead a company too," he said in a brief interview.

"It's not about money. In fact, I will take a financial hit since Nissan pays us well," Seki said. He declined to elaborate further.

Nissan and Nidec declined to comment.

Seeking to roll back some of the costly expansion under ousted chairman Carlos Ghosn, Nissan has embarked on wide-ranging turnaround plan.

That plan, which began in April, is now on track to generate a cumulative few hundred billion yen in cost cuts and operational efficiency gains by the year to March 2022, according to two Nissan sources who spoke on condition of anonymity. One hundred billion yen is roughly equal to $915 million.

Adding to concerns about disruption among Nissan's top management, the sources said that Seki, COO Ashwani Gupta and CEO Makoto Uchida have so far failed to gel as a team after being named to their posts in October.

They officially took over on Dec. 1.

"There was no instant, cohesive chemistry achieved by those appointments," one of the sources said.

Gupta and Uchida were not immediately available for comment.

Seki's resignation could further complicate Nissan's relationship with top shareholder Renault SA. Seki recently worked in Paris for a year and was seen as relatively close to the French automaker.

Persuaded in the end

Asked if he was leaving Nissan because he was passed over for the role of CEO, Seki said that was not the case but did not elaborate.

He and Uchida, most recently the head of the China business, had been seen as top contenders for the CEO job. Reuters reported in September that Uchida was seen as more favored by Renault.

Before being named vice-COO, Seki was a senior vice-president charged with leading the turnaround.

Nissan has been profoundly shaken over the last year, first with the downfall of long-term leader Ghosn, who is now awaiting trial on allegations of financial misconduct that he has denied. Former CEO Hiroto Saikawa then left in September.

One of the sources said Seki was contacted by a headhunter about a job at Nidec in April, after he returned from a year working in Paris.

Nidec's 75-year-old chairman, the brash and confident Shigenobu Nagamori, has been searching for an eventual successor to lead and expand its business.

Nidec, which sees electric vehicles as a key driver of growth, has a 40 percent global market share in automotive electric steering motors and has said it wants to boost its share in electric vehicle propulsion motors.

After April, Seki had no additional contact with Nidec until the recruiter called him again on Oct. 8 when Nissan announced the new management team, including Uchida as CEO.

After that second call, Seki agreed to meet Nagamori -- to turn down the offer, the source said.

"Nagamori talked Seki into accepting his offer in the end," the source said.

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Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and General Motors topped the industry in the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition's 2019 Automotive Diversity Scorecard released this month.

The organization also lauded improvements by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co.

The scorecard judges automakers on their commitment to improving diversity in employment, advertising, marketing, procurement, dealers and philanthropy.

Companies are scored as either green, yellow or red. Green signals that a company is using best practices to build ethnic diversity and has shared its goals, initiatives and investments in this area. Yellow indicates diversity is evident, but not all dollar investments, key figures and other factors were disclosed.

Red means diversity initiatives were nonexistent or undisclosed or that there was not relevant information provided for scoring.

Ford and Toyota had green marks in five of the six categories. Both had yellow ratings for dealerships. Ford ranked third in the industry, with 168 minority-owned dealerships at the end of 2018, while Toyota was fifth, with 74, according to the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers.

GM, the only automaker with a green rating for dealerships, had 278 minority-owned stores, the most in the industry. Overall, GM got four green ratings.

"Toyota and Ford have done very well because both have African American agencies of record, moreover, their procurement spend has been very strong," John Graves, chairman of the Rainbow/PUSH Automotive Project, said in an email to Automotive News. "Lastly, the commitment in the C-suites has been exceptional."

FCA, Honda and Nissan "have shown the most improvement by increasing their advertising and procurement spend with African American companies," Graves said.

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