Mitsubishi Motors Corp. announced Wednesday that its executive vice president, Rolf Eckrodt, who came from DaimlerChrysler AG, will become the automaker’s president and chief executive officer.

Eckrodt, 59, is chief operating officer of MMC’s passenger car division. He will replace current President and Chief Executive Officer Takashi Sonobe, 61, who will become chairman.

The new personnel change will take effect after it is approved at MMC’s annual shareholders’ meeting and at a special meeting of its board of directors, both on June 25, they said.

Meanwhile, DaimlerChrysler said it has no intention of increasing its stake in MMC from the current 37.3 percent.

“We point out that the planned switch to MMC by Rolf Eckrodt does not mean that DaimlerChrysler will increase its stake in MMC,” the car giant said in a statement.

Since DaimlerChrysler’s stake in Mitsubishi would remain a minority one, the automaker will not be fully consolidated into the German-U.S. giant’s accounts, the statement said.

Since last April, MMC has been working on a turnaround plan it hopes will lead to sustainable growth and higher consumer confidence. The automaker’s image was damaged in 2000 after it was found to have covered up decades’ worth of consumer complaints.

Under the plan, MMC has slashed 6,400 jobs groupwide, or more than two-thirds of the 9,500 jobs targeted for elimination by March 2004. It has also shut down the Oe plant in Nagoya, which accounted for 18 percent of its domestic production capacity, in its drive for an overall cut in capacity of 20 percent.

Other cost-cutting measures include the outsourcing of component production and changes to its organizational structure, corporate culture and product designs, the firm said.

At a press conference Wednesday, Sonobe, who took office in November 2000, said the firm is expected to break even for fiscal 2001, which ends March 31.

“In order to boost our “Turnaround Plan” for fiscal years 2002 and 2003, and to increase our stability and profitability in the competitive market, we need to strengthen our cooperation with DaimlerChrysler even further, both in the passenger car and commercial car businesses,” Sonobe said. “I feel this is the best time for me to ask Eckrodt to lead MMC.”

Sonobe also said that having worked with Eckrodt as part of a team for over a year, he is confident Eckrodt is now a pure “MMC guy” and capable of leading the firm to profitability.

Eckrodt, who has been with MMC since January 2001, said having a single leader provides a clearer orientation for employees, shareholders, dealers and suppliers.

“Mitsubishi Motors is a Japanese company, Japan is where our home market lies, and we will always respect the vital Japanese business culture values,” Eckrodt said. “However, in my opinion, it does not matter whether the CEO is Japanese or not. The final aim is the success of our company.”

Eckrodt also said that he will continue to implement the targets stated in the turnaround plan, which also includes cutting parts-procurement costs and joint development of products with DaimlerChrysler.

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