Business / Corporate

New Mitsubishi Motors CEO vows to achieve growth through alliance with Nissan and Renault

Kyodo

The newly named CEO of Mitsubishi Motors Corp. has vowed to achieve growth by strengthening the company’s competitiveness through its alliance with Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA in the fast-evolving auto industry.

“I hope to brush up our competitiveness through the use of the alliance and a focused strategy. I will step up efforts to achieve stable growth,” the 57-year-old Takao Kato, president of Mitsubishi Motors’ operations in Indonesia, said at a news conference Monday after being chosen last week to replace Osamu Masuko as CEO next month.

The 70-year-old Masuko will remain chairman with representative rights and continue to handle negotiations with Nissan and Renault over management of the three-way alliance, recently rocked by the arrest of its leader, Carlos Ghosn, for alleged financial misconduct.

“As the alliance wields great influence on Mitsubishi Motors, I will remain in charge,” Masuko, who has been CEO since 2014, said at the same news conference.

Masuko will represent Mitsubishi Motors on the alliance board comprised of Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa, Renault CEO Thierry Bollore and Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard to steer one of the world’s biggest auto groups.

The management change at Japan’s sixth-largest automaker by sales will be finalized pending shareholder approval at their annual meeting June 21. The event is also set to approve the dismissal of Ghosn as director.

Ghosn was removed as chairman of Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors shortly after his arrest last November. He has also resigned as chairman and CEO of Renault.

Kato, president of PT Mitsubishi Motors Krama Yudha Indonesia since April 2015, joined Mitsubishi Motors in 1984 and was instrumental in setting up a joint venture in Russia with France’s PSA Peugeot Citroen in 2010.

Kato said a major challenge facing Mitsubishi Motors is how to cope with the auto industry’s transition to developing vehicles with technologies of connectivity, autonomous driving, sharing and electrified powertrains.

Mitsubishi Motors said this month it expects its net profit to fall 51.1 percent to ¥65 billion in the business year through next March partly due to the yen’s strength, after posting ¥132.87 billion last year, helped by robust sales in Southeast Asia.

In the three-way alliance, Nissan holds a controlling stake of 34 percent in Mitsubishi Motors and a 15 percent stake in Renault without voting rights. The French automaker, meanwhile, has a stake of 43.4 percent with voting rights in Nissan.