Kyoji Takenaka, the incoming president of Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., is determined to make the company a full-fledged global player with “premium brand” vehicles.

“Our people share a keen sense of curiosity and I believe we need to further polish and utilize (this corporate culture) to make our company a more aggressive player,” he said in a recent interview.

Takenaka, 54, will become president and chief operating officer of the firm following formal approval at a June 27 shareholders’ meeting, outstripping 25 executives who had been senior to him.

The company’s Subaru four-wheel drive vehicles, which are aimed at a niche market, feature unique technology such as horizontally opposed engines and continuously variable transmissions.

Takenaka said his role will be to reinforce his firm’s presence in the global market by further emphasizing its unique features rather than targeting mass appeal.

Takenaka, currently operating officer in charge of corporate planning and alliance promotion, joined the company in 1969 and will be the first career Fuji Heavy employee to serve as president. His predecessors, including current President Takeshi Tanaka, 65, were taken from former shareholders, including Nissan Motor Co.

With his engineering background, Takenaka has worked mainly in the product planning, development and engineering sections of the firm’s car division. He also headed a development team for the Pleo minicar and played a leading role in coordinating joint operations with its partners, including General Motors Corp. of the United States and Suzuki Motor Corp.

Speaking of Takenaka’s surprise appointment, current President Tanaka said he wanted to chose a young and tough leader with an engineering background who will be able to stake a solid position for the company within the GM group. GM is Fuji Heavy’s largest stakeholder, with a 20 percent share.

Under its five-year plan through fiscal 2005, Fuji Heavy will strive to reinforce its alliance with GM in developing and marketing products. The plan also calls for sales of 804,000 units in fiscal 2005, up 38 percent from fiscal 2000, as well as for improving profitability in aerospace, bus body and general-use engine manufacturing.

Achieving concrete results from their alliance with GM is high on the agenda, Takenaka said, stressing the need for close communication to maximize alliance benefits.

“GM has many issues they want to discuss, but they also have ears to listen to what we have to say, and we basically agree on issues that bring benefit to both of our companies,” he said.

“But although General Motors is nearly 20 times as large as Fuji Heavy, I believe that we have the energy to make us 20 times larger than our size,” Takenaka said. “It will be important for us to distinguish ourselves by our unique performance.”

Mazda deep in red

Mazda Motor Corp. said Friday it fell into the red for the first time in three years in the 2000 business year, after setting aside reserves for retirement allowances under an early retirement program.

Mazda posted consolidated net losses of 155.24 billion yen in the year to March 31, compared with net profits of 26.16 billion yen the previous year. Pretax losses came to 29.77 billion yen, against pretax profits of 6.19 billion yen in 1999.

Group operating losses stood at 14.94 billion yen, compared with operating profits of 25.11 billion yen.

Sales declined 6.7 percent to 2.02 trillion yen.

Net loss per share came to 126.99 yen. Per share net profits were 21.39 yen the previous year.

Total sales in Japan and abroad fell 4.8 percent from a year earlier to 963,991 units on a sharp sales decline in Europe, it said.

On a parent-only basis, Mazda registered net losses of 127.59 billion yen after net profits of 5.14 billion yen the previous year.

Its pretax losses came to 32.3 billion yen, compared with the previous year’s pretax profits of 7.74 billion yen, on a 9.8 percent sales drop to 1.32 trillion yen.

After paying 2 yen per share in the 1999 business year, it will suspend annual dividends.

For the current business year, it expects group sales of 2.14 trillion yen and pretax profits of 2 billion yen. Group net profits are likely to come to zero.

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