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After eight years at the helm of Honda Motor Co., President Nobuhiko Kawamoto on Monday announced he will step down in late June.

He will be succeeded by Vice President Hiroyuki Yoshino, who has also served as president of Honda Research & Development Co. Kawamoto, 62, will become a company director and adviser.

The changeover will take effect at a board of directors meeting scheduled after the general shareholders meeting in late June.

Kawamoto and Yoshino, 58, joined Honda Motor in 1963. Yoshino has held a number of leading positions in the manufacturing sector, including general manager of Honda’s Suzuka factory in Mie Prefecture and president of Honda of America Manufacturing, Inc.

Kawamoto told a news conference that the past eight years have been tough for Honda as well as the auto industry due to factors such as the collapse of the asset-inflated bubble economy, the yen’s weakness against the dollar and trade friction with the United States.

With the industry now in a period of uncertainty, Honda, under Yoshino’s leadership, must meet the changing demands of consumers, boost its competitiveness in the global market and be attuned to environmental concerns, Kawamoto said.

Honda last year reached its annual sales target of 800,000 units in Japan’s market — a goal it set in 1995 — to become the No. 3 automaker in Japan. In the 1997 business year, it registered record profits.

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