Facing continuing problems from its massive tire recall, Bridgestone Corp. has named its senior quality-assurance executive to be its next chairman, president and CEO.
Shigeo Watanabe, senior vice president in charge of quality assurance since 1998, will succeed Yoichiro Kaizaki at the annual shareholders' meeting March 31.
Watanabe, 58, will be the tire maker's first CEO with a technology background. He also spent nine years in the United States and Europe as a manager of tire development and heads Bridgestone's tire development organization.
In a sign that he may push for further company globalization, Watanabe said he would consider bringing John Lampe, CEO of Bridgestone's U.S. unit, Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., onto the board of the parent company.
Kaizaki, 67, said his leaving 'is not to take responsibility for the recall.' Rather, he said, he had vowed to lead Bridgestone for eight years when he took the helm in March 1993.
'He is the best person to lead the revitalization of Bridgestone/Firestone,' Kaizaki said of his successor.
Bridgestone said its U.S. unit posted a loss of about $500 million for 2000, the tire maker's first loss in eight years, as the result of its recall of 6.5 million light-truck tires.
The loss reflects costs of $400 million to recall Wilderness AT, ATX and ATX II tires alleged to have been a factor in 148 deaths in the United States, plus $350 million to compensate for damages, Kaizaki said late last year.
The recall also cost the company heavily in lost sales of replacement tires. Kaizaki disclosed that replacement tire sales in the U.S. market tumbled 40 percent after the recall began.
Kaizaki will remain with Bridgestone as a full-time adviser.