The unexpected departure of Jose Munoz, one of the highest-ranking Westerners working for Nissan, is raising new concerns about what former executives and industry insiders warn could become a purge of foreigners linked to the Japanese automaker's dethroned Chairman Carlos Ghosn.
Munoz, who until recently was thought to be in the running for CEO, resigned Friday after the company put him on leave from his regular job as chief performance officer. Nissan assigned Munoz to work on a growing internal investigation looking for financial and other ethical irregularities, according to an industry executive who has close ties to Nissan's board.
Numerous industry executives, even some inside the company, question whether Ghosn's arrest and lengthy detention are more political than criminal.
People familiar with the matter said Nissan's internal investigation is little more than an attempt to wrest power away from Renault, the French automaker that engineered Nissan's 1999 bailout and holds a 43.4 percent stake in its Japanese alliance partner.