updated 3/16/2007 8:18:13 AM ET 2007-03-16T12:18:13

Carlos Ghosn, the charismatic chief executive who led Nissan to a turnaround, will give up his role overseeing its U.S. operations as part of a shake-up to strengthen management at the Japanese automaker, the company said Friday.

Ghosn remains CEO of both Nissan Motor Co., Japan’s No. 3 automaker, and its alliance partner Renault SA of France, which sent in Ghosn to lead the revival in 1999.

Hiroto Saikawa, executive vice president, and purchasing expert, will take on the role overseeing the U.S. market.

Chief Operating Officer Toshiyuki Shiga, No. 2 at Nissan after Ghosn, will continue to oversee Japan operations, while Colin Dodge, senior vice president of manufacturing for Nissan Europe, will take on Shiga’s role as head of general overseas markets, including China operations, the company said in a statement.

Hidetoshi Imazu, with experience in production engineering, was placed in charge of European operations, it said.

Five individuals were named corporate officers in the management shaeup while six were retiring or leaving Nissan.

Separately, Nissan said Friday it will cut auto production at two factories in Japan because of slow domestic sales.

Nissan spokeswoman Pauline Kee didn’t disclose the size of the cutback but said it will affect production at factories in Kanagawa and Tochigi prefectures.

On one production line at each plant, staffing will be cut back to one shift from two shift from April to June, Kee said. Each factory has two production lines.

“We are adjusting our production to balance output with market demand,” Kee said.

Japan’s Nikkei newspaper had earlier reported that the Tokyo-based automaker is planning output cuts of 20 percent at each plant.

Production capacity at the Kanagawa plant is around 334,000 units a year, while the Tochigi factory can churn out 192,000 vehicles.

Last month, Nissan slashed its annual profit forecast after seeing a 22 percent slump in earnings in the October-December quarter. At the time, President Carlos Ghosn declared a “performance crisis” at the Japanese automaker.

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