Nissan Strategy Chief Munoz Begins Leave of Absence

January 07, 2019 at 12:00 AM

Nissan Motor Co. says Jose Munoz, who has led the company’s global business strategy since late 2016, is taking a leave of absence for an unspecified period.

The company confirms that Arun Bajaj, who heads human resources, also is on leave. Sources tell Automotive News Europe that he is cooperating with prosecutors in their probe of financial wrongdoing by former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn.

Munoz (pictured) formerly ran Nissan operations in North America and is a Ghosn ally. He has been considered a possible successor to Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa, who was named to that position less than two years ago. Both men were Ghosn protégés.

As Nissan’s chief performance officer, Munoz had been scheduled to represent the carmaker at this week’s CES show in Las Vegas and next week at the Detroit auto show. Now the company says he won’t attend either event. Nissan says Munoz will instead assist with unspecified tasks “arising from recent events.”

Ghosn had soured on Saikawa and planned to replace him in late November, sources told The Wall Street Journal last month. Ghosn was arrested in Japan on Nov. 19 and indicted on Dec. 10 for understating his total compensation by $43 million. The charges stem from an internal investigation championed by Saikawa.

Meanwhile, friction has developed between Munoz and Saikawa, according to the Journal. The newspaper notes that Munoz failed to meet a corporate goal set in 2011 of boosting Nissan’s global market share and operating margin to 8% by 2017.