Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. announces sweeping management changes, the most significant of which is the deferral of U.S. duties for CEO Carlos Ghosn.

Nissan says Hiroto Saikawa, currently executive vice president-purchasing, has added the role of chairman of the Americas management committee.

“The priority for our new management team is to act decisively on the multiple challenges facing Nissan and to boost our overall performance in 2007,” Ghosn says in a statement.

Reports indicate the change is in response to Nissan's dismal performance in the past year, resulting in the admission last month that it would miss its profit target for the current fiscal year of ¥523 billion ($4.5 billion). The auto maker now predicts it will earn ¥460 billion ($3.9 billion).

Saikawa's role as head of North and South America takes effect April 1, Nissan says.

Other management changes include the addition of Infiniti business to Carlos Tavares' duties. Tavares is executive vice president-corporate planning, product planning, market intelligence, brand management, design program management and LCV business.

Nissan says Hidetoshi Imazu will be proposed as a company director at Nissan's June shareholders meeting. Imazu also becomes executive vice president-manufacturing, on April 1. He currently is senior vice president-vehicle production engineering division.

Nissan says six corporate officers are retiring or leaving in June. As such, it has named five people, including Mark McNabb, who will be appointed corporate vice presidents. McNabb, who recently returned to Nissan from a stint at Mercedes-Benz, will be named corporate vice president-Infiniti global business.

Meanwhile, Nissan also announces it will cut production at two Japanese plants, by dropping one of two shifts at each facility in Kanagawa and Tochigi prefectures, due to a falloff in domestic demand.

The scaling back reportedly will occur sometime in the April-June period.

Last year, Thomas Lane, corporate vice president-product planning and strategy, told Ward's the auto maker likely would have to reduce its 25-model lineup in Japan as new-vehicle sales in the country continue to slump.