TOKYO - When Osamu Suzuki, 73, Suzuki Motor Corp. chairman and CEO, shuffled his executives in January, he said the carmaker's management needed to be rejuvenated.
Now those changes are coming to Suzuki Motor's boardroom. Osamu Suzuki's eldest son, Toshihiro Suzuki, 44, has been appointed to the company's board. If the move is approved at a shareholders meeting in June, as expected, he will be the youngest among 27 board members. He currently oversees the company's product planning.
The younger Suzuki's promotion is widely expected to pave the way for an eventual move into the president's office, said Shigeharu Kimishima, an analyst at Mitsubishi Securities Co.
But such a move is not guaranteed. Another candidate could be Takahiro Ono, 47, the chairman's son-in-law. Ono has been on the board since 2001, when he moved to Suzuki Motor after more than 20 years in government service, all at Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Ono now is in charge of Suzuki Motor's North American and European sales.
Suzuki Motor is a family concern, even if it is traded on the Tokyo stock exchange. Each of the company's presidents came from the Suzuki family, although some were adopted into the family in traditional Japanese fashion. Osamu Suzuki, for example, first married into the Suzuki family, then was adopted by the family and took the Suzuki name. He served as the company's fourth president for 22 years, until he became chairman in 2000.
Toshihiro Suzuki spent two years, starting in 2001, in the United States at a liaison post with General Motors, which owns 20 percent of Suzuki Motor. In Detroit, he helped expedite the exchange of technologies between the two companies, such as those for a fuel cell vehicle that GM and Suzuki Motor are developing jointly.
He headed the Iwata plant in Shizuoka, west of Tokyo, before going to GM. Prior to that he also helped manage production of mini and compact cars at the Kosai plant. Along with 10 other newly appointed board members, the addition of Toshihiro Suzuki to the board would bring the average age of Suzuki Motor's board down by 3½ years, to 55.9 years.