Nissan top executive Munoz resigns amid broadened Ghosn probe

Jose Munoz, who was the automaker’s chief performance officer and head of its China operations, had been a ‘person of interest’ in Nissan’s widening internal investigation. (Reuters)
Updated 12 January 2019
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Nissan top executive Munoz resigns amid broadened Ghosn probe

  • In a statement, Nissan said that Munoz had ‘elected to resign’ from the company, effective immediately
  • The scandal has sent shockwaves through the automotive industry and has escalated tensions between Nissan and Renault

TOKYO: One of Nissan’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, 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 US and expand aggressively in China.
Reuters had reported earlier on Friday that the Japanese automaker was looking into decisions made in the US 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 ($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 US 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.


Daimler warns on 2019 profit outlook as diesel issues bite

Updated 59 min 25 sec ago
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Daimler warns on 2019 profit outlook as diesel issues bite

  • Group earnings before interest and tax this year are now expected to be at last year’s level
  • Daimler must recall 60,000 Mercedes diesel cars in Germany after regulators found that they were fitted with software aimed at distorting emissions tests

FRANKFURT: Daimler cut its 2019 earnings outlook on Sunday after lifting provisions for issues related to its diesel vehicles by hundreds of millions of euros.
Group earnings before interest and tax this year are now expected to be at last year’s level, the carmaker said, against a previous estimate for a slight increase. Earnings will be affected in the second quarter, it said.
The revision is related to an expected increase in expenses linked to “various ongoing governmental proceedings and measures” with regard to Mercedes-Benz diesel vehicles, the company said.
The increase in the provision is likely to be “a high three-digit million-euro amount,” it added.
A spokesman declined to be more specific on the size of the provision increase and would not elaborate on the nature of the diesel issues behind the decision.
However, Sunday’s profit warning follows news over the weekend that Daimler must recall 60,000 Mercedes diesel cars in Germany after regulators found that they were fitted with software aimed at distorting emissions tests.
The transportation ministry said it was expanding its investigation into further models.
The Stuttgart-based owner of Mercedes-Benz is being investigated for its diesel emissions in Europe and the United States. It issued a similar profit warning on diesel issues in October.
In April, EU antitrust regulators charged BMW, Volkswagen and Daimler with colluding to block the rollout of clean emissions technology.
While Daimler was a whistleblower in that case and said at the time that it expected to avoid fines, BMW booked a provision of more than $1.14 billion (€1 billion).
Daimler also said it was reducing its forecast for the return on sales for Mercedes-Benz vans.
It now sees a return between minus 2 percent and minus 4 percent, below its previous forecast of a return on sales of 0 percent to 2 percent.
On Monday, car executives are due to meet with government officials and experts at the chancellery in Berlin to talk about the future of the car industry.
Daimler is one of a number of German automakers massively expanding in electric vehicles as European regulators clamp down on toxic diesel emissions.