JAPAN – Japan’s second largest automaker Nissan Motor Co has appointed Makoto Uchida who is currently the Senior Vice President in charge of Chinese business as its next CEO.

 Uchida who is known to have close ties to top shareholder Renault was unanimously appointed the Board in October this year. and for a frank, straight-talking manner that has marked him as an outsider.

Nissan’s former China chief Jun Seki, who was seen as one of the top contenders for the CEO job, will be vice COO, the company said

Reuters reported that the three appointees will take up their positions by January 2020.

Unlike other top executives, he has not spent his entire career at Nissan, having joined from Nissho Iwai, now part of trading house Sojitz.

He also graduated from Doshisha University in Kyoto, where he studied theology while most of the top executives in Japan come from the University of Tokyo, and often study law.

By selecting Makoto Uchida, Nissan’s board has therefore gone with someone slightly at odds with its traditional corporate culture of appointing top executives from its home grown.

He joined the carmaker mid-career in 2003, a rarity in a country where top executives usually spend their entire working lives at the same company.

Reuters reported that Uchida was Known for his unflagging work ethic and relentless focus on cost control.

 Uchida was described by one long-time associate who spoke to reuters on condition of anonymity as a “foreigner with a Japanese face” – direct and to the point in conversations.

Whether the 53-year-old former theology student can deliver a miracle turnaround – particularly at Nissan’s business in the United States – and repair ties with Renault will now be a focus for investors.

Uchida will be joined by newly appointed Chief Operating Officer (COO) Ashwani Gupta, currently COO of junior partner Mitsubishi Motors Corp in trying to find new ways to revive a business that has been struggling for months with plunging profits, management scandal and tensions with Renault.