Mitsubishi to shuffle top management, report says

Masuko, who joined Mitsubishi as president in 2005, is expected to serve as chairman and in a newly created chief executive officer post, according to a published report in Japan on Friday.

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TOKYO -- Mitsubishi Motors Corp. President Osamu Masuko, who led the struggling carmaker to record profits and overhauled its product strategy, plans to hand off control April 1 to Managing Director Tetsuro Aikawa, Japan's Nikkei business daily reported Friday in Tokyo.

The Nikkei said Masuko is expected to serve as chairman and in a newly created chief executive officer post, while Aikawa will take on a newly created COO role.

Masuko will focus his attention on building partnerships with other automakers.

Mitsubishi issued a statement saying nothing has been decided.

Aikawa, 59, is an engineer noted for leading the development of such minicars as Mitsubishi's eK Wagon and the egg-shaped i runabout.

He joined Mitsubishi in 1978 and was promoted to its board of directors in 2005. He has also worked in domestic sales and manufacturing.

Since 2011, he has led Mitsubishi's global production division, overseeing the realignment of U.S. and Japanese plants.

The product and manufacturing overhaul included phasing out production of such U.S.-only models as the Eclipse, Endeavor and Galant at Mitsubishi's Normal, Ill., plant, and switching output there to the Outlander Sport small crossover, a key model sold by Mitsubishi worldwide.

Under Aikawa, the company has also consolidated its model lineup in Japan and rolled out a new minivehicle joint venture with Nissan Motor Co. at Mitsubishi's Mizushima factory.

Since 2011, Aikawa, 59, has led Mitsubishi's global production division, overseeing the realignment of U.S. and Japanese plants.

Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

"He's a real car guy," Mitsubishi spokeswoman Namie Koketsu said.

In response to the Nikkei report, Mitsubishi issued a statement saying "nothing of that nature has been announced by MMC … Nothing has been decided at this moment."

In an interview with Automotive News last month, Masuko was circumspect about how long he would stay with the company, which he joined in 2005 to help bail out.

"At that time, I went around all the plants at MMC. Before me, there was, on average, nine different presidents over nine years," Masuko said. "The employees said try to stay as long as possible. It was not a good thing for the employees to have nine presidents in nine years. But it was beyond my imagination that I'd end up serving as president for such a long time."

You can reach Hans Greimel at hgreimel@crain.com. -- Follow Hans on Twitter


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