PARIS — Ashwani Gupta, Nissan’s new chief operating officer, has spent much of the past 13 years shuttling between Tokyo and Paris in executive positions that gave him a bird’s-eye view of the Renault-Nissan alliance’s often-opaque structure.
That broad experience, and a background that is neither French nor Japanese — nor tilted toward either Renault or Nissan — is likely to serve Gupta well with tensions between the partners running high in the wake of Carlos Ghosn’s arrest last November in Tokyo on accusations that he had conspired to hide tens of millions in compensation.
As the former head of the alliance’s cross-company van and pickup business unit, Gupta has a deep understanding of the development, purchasing and manufacturing synergies that building more than 10 million vehicles a year can bring.
India-born Gupta, 49, joined Renault as general manager for purchasing in India in 2006 after working for Honda in India and Japan, where he rose from commodity buyer to become a product development executive.
In 2008 moved to the Renault Nissan Purchasing Organization in France as global supplier account manager for braking systems.
After a stint at Datsun, Gupta became head of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance’s light commercial vehicle business unit in 2017 before being sent to Mitsubishi Motors as COO earlier this year.
Gupta is viewed as a supporter of the alliance, which was plunged into crisis after Ghosn’s arrest, winning him the favor of Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard.
On Tuesday, Nissan’s board agreed a collective-style leadership with Makoto Uchida, 53, the head of its China joint venture, as CEO, working alongside Gupta and former China chief Jun Seki as deputy COO reporting to Gupta.
“Uchida and Gupta seem to have a good balance,” said Tatsuo Yoshida, a senior auto analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence in Tokyo. “Mr. Uchida has experience outside of Nissan and came from a trading company, while Gupta is not Japanese nor French and has worked at other Japanese automakers, which can help the alliance strengthen,” Yoshida said.
Nissan’s board, including directors from Renault, on Tuesday voted unanimously in favor of the new leadership team, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.
APE, which handles the French state’s holdings in companies including a 15 percent stake in Renault, said it was delighted “with a unanimous decision that will allow Nissan and the alliance to move forward.”
Bloomberg and Reuters contributed to this report