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UPDATE 3-Nissan pins hopes on surprise CEO choice to lead revival

Maki Shiraki and Kevin Buckland

* Senior vice president Uchida to be next CEO

* Mitsubishi Motors COO Gupta to become group COO

* Appointments "victory for alliance" with Renault-source (Recasts with source comments, background)

TOKYO, Oct 8 (Reuters) - Nissan Motor Co named a relative outsider who joined the automaker mid-career as its next CEO on Tuesday, picking Makoto Uchida in a surprise move that was immediately seen as positive for its strained ties with top shareholder Renault.

Uchida, a senior vice president known for his unflagging work ethic and relentless focus on cost control, was described by one long-time associate who spoke on condition of anonymity as a "foreigner with a Japanese face" - a straight talker who was direct and to the point in conversations.

Uchida will be joined by newly appointed Chief Operating Officer (COO) Ashwani Gupta, currently COO of junior partner Mitsubishi Motors Corp, in trying to revive a business hit by plunging profits and management scandal.

Japan's second-largest automaker has been shaken by the arrest of former Chairman Carlos Ghosn last year on allegations of financial misconduct, which he denies, and the more recent departure of CEO Hiroto Saikawa after he admitted to being improperly overpaid.

How the 58-year-old Uchida will turn the company around - particularly its business in the United States - and repair ties with Renault will now be a focus for investors.

"Strong leadership is required," Yasushi Kimura, Nissan's chairman, told a news conference. "Group leadership, where they all support each other, will be more transparent."

One source close to Renault described the selection as "a victory for the alliance," saying that both men knew the business and were ready to help Nissan recover.

Former China chief Jun Seki, who was widely seen as one of the top contenders for the CEO job, will be vice COO, the company said.

The new appointees will take up their positions by Jan. 1.

The Uchida associate described him as a "Japanese person who isn't really Japanese inside. Very direct in his language, to the point, easy to understand."

Unlike other top executives he has not spent his entire career at Nissan, having joined in 2003 from Nissho Iwai, now part of trading house Sojitz.

Directors at Nissan, including those from top shareholder Renault SA, voted unanimously in favor of the two executives, a source said.

Uchida was not seen as one of the frontrunners in the race to be the next chief executive, Reuters has reported. (Reporting by Maki Shiraki and Kevin Buckland in Tokyo, Norihiko Shirouzu in Beijing and Gilles Guillaume in Paris; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Edmund Blair and Mark Potter)