The future of the UK’s biggest car factory is in jeopardy after the shamed boss who fought for the plant looks likely to be ousted. Carlos Ghosn’s role as the chairman and chief executive of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance hangs in the balance after he was arrested amid claims he raided company funds and concealed bonuses
The future of the UK’s biggest car factory is in jeopardy after the shamed boss who fought for the plant looks likely to be ousted.
Carlos Ghosn’s role as the chairman and chief executive of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance hangs in the balance after he was arrested amid claims he raided company funds and concealed bonuses to dodge tax.
His arrest has sent shockwaves through the global car industry – and raised fears over the future of the Nissan plant in Sunderland where a 7,000-strong workforce build the Qashqai.
Carlos Ghosn’s role as the chairman and chief executive of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance hangs in the balance following his arrest
Ghosn, 64, doggedly sought assurances from Theresa May in the wake of the EU referendum in 2016 that Nissan would be able to trade on the same conditions after Brexit.
The French-Brazilian then committed to make Nissan’s Qashqai SUV and X-Trail model at the company’s Sunderland plant after receiving a written assurance from the Prime Minister in October 2016.
Nissan indicated losing the Qashqai could mean the company would eventually have to close the facility, as well as its other UK sites, including a design centre in Paddington, London, and a technical centre in Bedfordshire.
The Sunderland car plant makes around half a million cars a year and Nissan’s UK operations support suppliers with 30,000 workers across Britain.
It is feared that without Ghosn at the helm, Nissan’s commitment could waver.
‘A new leader might take a different approach [to the Sunderland plant],’ said Anna-Marie Baisden, head of autos research at advisory firm Fitch Solutions.
In a sign of concern among the workforce, a spokesman for Unite, which represents staff at the plant, said union officials were ‘in dialogue with the company and are monitoring the situation very closely’.
As the global car industry reeled after Ghosn’s arrest, Nissan shares fell more than 5pc, Renault was down more than 2 per cent and Mitsubishi tumbled nearly 7 per cent.
Last night it was reported that Ghosn was plotting a full-blown merger between Nissan and Renault in the run-up to his arrest.
Nissan’s board was bitterly opposed to the plan and had allegedly been looking for ways to block it.
Renault was expected to appoint an interim chief executive and chairman at a board meeting last night following Ghosn’s arrest in Japan.
Nissan has said he will be fired from his post as Nissan chairman on Thursday, while Mitsubishi said on Monday it will propose removing the executive from its board of directors.
Ghosn is being held in police custody after an internal investigation, prompted by a whistleblower, found he under-reported his salary to the Tokyo Stock Exchange in company filings over five years to 2015.
Another board member, representative director Greg Kelly, has also been arrested.
Nissan claimed that Ghosn and Kelly conspired to say his income was around half the £69m he earned in that time.
Ghosn has not yet been formally charged and it is not known where he is being held.
If found guilty he could face up to ten years in prison, a £69,000 fine, or both.
He became Nissan chief executive in 2001 and is credited with rescuing the car maker from near bankruptcy.
He later became chief executive of Renault in 2005, chairman of Nissan in 2008 and chairman of Renault in 2009.
Mitsubishi Motors chief executive Osamu Masuko told reporters in Tokyo that it might be hard to manage the car alliance without Ghosn.
‘I don’t think there is anyone else on earth like Ghosn who could run Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi,’ he said.