Auto industry lobby appoints Honda Chairman Ike as new chief

by Masaaki Kameda

Staff Writer

The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association on Thursday picked Honda Motor Co. Chairman Fumihiko Ike to replace Toyota Motor Corp. chief Akio Toyoda as the chief of the industry lobby.

“As a leading industry and a representative for manufacturers (in Japan), automobile industry will contribute to revitalization of Japanese economy,” Ike said at his inaugural news conference at a Tokyo hotel following a JAMA board meeting.

Ike, who will take on the title of JAMA chairman, said that this year holds the key to sustainable growth for Japan, which returned to the path to recovery last year.

Japanese automakers achieved positive earnings in the business year ended in March thanks to such factors as the weakened yen and strong sales in Japan and major overseas markets.

However, the business environment for the auto industry does not allow for optimism, Ike said, citing concerns about a slowdown in emerging economies and the expected shrinkage of the domestic market from the first stage of the doubling of the consumption tax in April and fading consumer sentiment.

Ike, 61, told reporters the lobby aims to rejuvenate the domestic market by drawing new automobile fans with appealing cars and motorcycles, adding it will continue to pressure the government to ease the heavy taxes that make automobile ownership onerous in Japan.

He also said the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo will be a great chance for the auto industry to showcase its vision of the future.

“We’d like to actively promote efforts for the practical use of next-generation technologies,” including intelligent transport systems, Ike said.

JAMA also appointed other board members on Thursday. Toyoda, Nissan Vice Chairman Toshiyuki Shiga, and Mazda Motor Corp. President Masamichi Kogai are now among the five vice chairmen.

The JAMA chairmanship is shared on a rotating basis, with executives from Honda, Nissan Motor Co. and Toyota holding two-year terms.

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