TOKYO -- Mitsubishi Motors Chairman Takashi Sonobe, a key figure in the Japanese auto maker's turnaround efforts three years ago, has died of heart failure, the company said on Wednesday. He was 62.
Sonobe, who died on Tuesday at a Tokyo hospital, joined Japan's fourth-largest car maker in 1970 from the automobile division of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, later overseeing Mitsubishi Motors' Southeast Asian and North American businesses.
He became board member and director in June 2000, leading efforts to strengthen Mitsubishi Motors' capital ties with German-U.S. auto giant DaimlerChrysler AG, which now owns a controlling 37 percent of the company.
In November that year, he took over as president and chief executive after his predecessor Katsuhiko Kawasoe resigned in disgrace over a scandal involving the cover-up of customer complaints over two decades.
In June 2002, Sonobe stepped down as CEO to make way for DaimlerChrysler veteran Rolf Eckrodt. He had since been serving as chairman of the board and chief business ethics officer.