A festering data-fabrication scandal has cost Kobe Steel Ltd.'s chief executive his post, as well as the jobs of other top executives, the firm announced Tuesday as it seeks to take responsibility for the brouhaha that has erupted over the quality of its products and dented the nation's once vaunted reputation for excellence.

Hiroya Kawasaki, the firm's 63-year-old CEO, will step down on April 1, a decision approved at a board meeting Monday. Executive Vice President Akira Kaneko, 63, who is in charge of its aluminum and copper business, will also resign. Both executives will remain as board members until late June, after its annual shareholders meeting.

"I thought it's best for the company to proceed with reforms under new managers with speed, so that we can show as many people as possible that the company has changed," Kawasaki told a news conference Tuesday. "We once again deeply apologize that our misconduct has caused enormous inconvenience for our customers, clients and stakeholders."