• Bloomberg, Kyodo

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Osamu Suzuki, the longest-serving leader of any major global automaker, ceded his title as president of Suzuki Motor Corp. to his son, Toshihiro, on Tuesday.

The 85-year-old will stay on as chairman and CEO of the company.

The announcement naming Toshihiro Suzuki as the next president will ease uncertainty about management succession at the automaker, where his father has served as either chairman, president or CEO since 1978.

“Toshihiro’s promotion has cleared clouds hanging over Suzuki,” said Satoru Takada, an analyst at TIW Inc. “Power succession has been an issue for Suzuki for years. They had to give their answer sometime soon.”

Suzuki’s new president will have to safeguard dominance in India, its biggest market, where Nissan Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. are wooing customers with low-priced models.

He will also steer the company as it emerges from years of arbitration with Germany’s Volkswagen AG, Suzuki’s biggest shareholder, over a failed partnership brokered in 2009.

“I wanted to wait until the arbitration with VW to finish, but the time has been so long that I’m puzzled,” Osamu Suzuki told reporters at a briefing in Tokyo. “So I decided not to wait and announced the management change.”

The two carmakers’ goal was to cooperate on small, fuel-efficient cars for emerging markets, but relations soured over the next two years as each side accused the other of breaching the agreement, and they entered into arbitration in November 2011.

The announcement eases uncertainty about management succession at Suzuki, where Osamu Suzuki has served as either chairman, president or CEO since 1978. The carmaker rose 2.7 percent, the most since May 12, to ¥4,135 in Tokyo on Tuesday.

“Toshihiro’s promotion has cleared clouds hanging over Suzuki,” said Satoru Takada, an analyst at TIW Inc. “Power succession has been an issue for Suzuki for years. They had to give their answer sometime soon.”

Osamu Suzuki was born Osamu Matsuda but married into the carmaker’s founding family and took his wife’s last name, promoted four of his lieutenants in 2011 to the level of executive vice presidents. Toshihiro Suzuki was among the four, heading the company’s overseas business.

Two of the other three executives, Yasuhito Harayama and Osamu Honda, have been named vice chairman and chief technology officer, respectively.

Toshihiro Suzuki, in his first remarks to media as president, said he plans to nurture his successors more proactively and hand over the leadership as early as possible.

“Until now the communication has been one-way,” Osamu Suzuki said. “But from now on we’ll change the atmosphere and make people express what they want to say.”

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