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.
LOS ANGELES — Book by Cadillac, a subscription service that General Motors put on hiatus in late 2018, will return early next year with a new direction, said Deborah Wahl, GM's chief marketing officer.
Speaking Tuesday at the J.D. Power/NADA AutoConference L.A. here, Wahl said the first dealers will begin piloting the revamped program in February. While she did not go into details, she promised greater "convenience, flexibility and value for potential subscribers."
Wahl, who in September was named GM's first global CMO in seven years, said the program would be better integrated with Cadillac's dealer network, and said that Dublin Cadillac in California would be among the first to test the new program.
"We do still see a lot of interest from consumers in finding different ownership models, but the right price, value, how we do that, how we bundle those services is what we're working on," Wahl told Automotive News in an interview earlier this year. She did not discuss pricing on Tuesday.
The first Book by Cadillac program, launched in 2017, allowed customers to pay a $1,800 monthly fee that covered insurance and maintenance costs. Subscribers could swap in and out of Cadillac vehicles with no long-term commitment.
Wahl said the learnings from that program were significant. Roughly 70 percent of users, she said, were conquest customers new to Cadillac.
"There's really no one-size-fits-all solution for personal transportation," she said.
Wahl's presentation Tuesday focused on how she is attempting to help GM stay ahead of consumer preferences. She cited another Cadillac initiative, Super Cruise, as a technology customers may not have asked for, but loved.
The hands-free driver-assist system was launched in 2017 on the CT6. The luxury brand plans to expand it to the CT5 starting in 2020 before ultimately adopting the technology throughout its lineup.
Wahl said 85 percent of Super Cruise users are either interested in trying it again or say they have to have the feature on their next vehicle. To date, customers have driven 4.3 million miles with the feature enabled, she said.
It's one piece of GM's ambitious quest to reach zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion.
"Over time," Wahl said. "the status quo solves absolutely nothing."
Hannah Lutz contributed.