Suzuki Motor Corp. made a number of announcements Wednesday, naming its new president, unveiling fiscal 2003 sales projections and launching what it says is the world’s first commercially available hybrid minivehicle.

The carmaker said that Hiroshi Tsuda, a senior managing director in charge of car technology, will take over the presidency on April 1, replacing Masao Toda, who has served as president since June 2000. Toda will become a board director.

Tsuda, 57, said he will work to create more attractive products to survive intensifying competition in the domestic and overseas markets in cooperation with Suzuki Chairman Osamu Suzuki and other directors.

Toda, 67, had been in and out of the hospital until last March. He said his poor health made him decide to step down.

Suzuki, 72, who had served as president for 22 years before Toda, said the change will be a good opportunity to rejuvenate the firm’s management team after he had been a sole leader of the carmaker for years.

Suzuki Motor also unveiled its sales and production plans for 2003. The carmaker hopes to sell 928,000 cars worldwide, up 2 percent from the previous year.

The automaker hopes its domestic sales will increase 3 percent from 2002 to reach 645,000 units — 585,000 minicars and 60,000 compacts, while its overseas sales are expected to remain flat at 283,000 units.

2003 production will be 954,000 units in Japan and 872,000 units overseas, both up 2 percent, as Suzuki produces cars on an original equipment manufacturing basis for other automakers. Output volumes in China and in India will increase about 10 percent from the previous year, company officials said.

On its motorcycle business, Suzuki hopes to sell 131,000 units in Japan, up 10 percent from 2002, and 383,000 oversees, up 7 percent.

Domestic output for 2003 is estimated to reach 484,000 motorcycles, up 17 percent from the previous year, while overseas production will reach 1.62 million units, up 31 percent. Suzuki also produces motorcycles on an OEM basis.

As part of its efforts to achieve its ambitious goals, Suzuki the same day launched a new environmentally friendly gasoline-electric hybrid minicar, the Twin, boasted as the first commercial hybrid minivehicle to be put on the market.

The hybrid minicar is priced between 1.29 million yen and 1.39 million yen.

The two-seat Twin is also available with a regular gasoline engine starting at 490,000 yen, the nation’s least expensive four-wheeled vehicle.

The carmaker set monthly sales targets at 200 units for the Twin, including about 10 hybrid models, company officials said.

Suzuki also said it will import the Chevrolet Trail Blazer sport utility vehicle from its alliance partner, General Motors Corp. of the United States, and begin selling the model in Japan on Feb. 1. It figures to sell 500 units annually.

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