Carlos Ghosn is relinquishing his role as chief executive of Nissan, but will remain chairman of the Japanese car maker.
Hiroto Saikawa, already the company's co-chief executive, will take over.
The reshuffle will allow Mr Ghosn to focus on Nissan's alliances with Mitsubishi Motors and France's Renault.
Nissan bought a 34% stake in Mitsubishi Motors last year in the wake of Mitsubishi's fuel efficiency scandal. Mr Ghosn is also Mitsubishi's chairman.
Mr Ghosn said: "Having recently taken on new responsibilities at Mitsubishi Motors, and taking into consideration the upcoming Nissan general shareholders meeting, I have decided that the time is right for Hiroto Saikawa to succeed me as Nissan's CEO."
Nissan said: "As chairman of all three Alliance companies, and as chief executive of the Renault Group, Mr Ghosn wishes to focus more of his attention on the expansion and stewardship of the alliance."
Shareholders will vote on the move at Nissan's general meeting in June.
Nissan's Alliance family is built around a 17-year cross shareholding agreement with Renault. Nissan has also previously acquired stakes or signed partnerships with other carmakers including Daimler.
Mr Saikawa joined Nissan in 1977 and since 1999 he has served in a number of senior management positions, which included overseeing operations in the Americas and Europe.
Mr Ghosn became Nissan's chief operating officer in June 1999 and was appointed chief executive in June 2001, reviving what had been a brand in decline.
Under his leadership, Nissan achieved higher profit margins and expanded in many countries, including China, which is now one of the carmaker's key markets.