A longtime presence at the top of Mitsubishi Motors departed his post Friday morning, marking the end of an era for the embattled Japanese automaker. Company Chairman Osamu Masuko, 71, resigned effective immediately today, following a six-year tenure at the top of a company he joined in 1972.
Masuko, who rose to become president of the company in 2005 and CEO in 2014, cited health reasons for his sudden departure.
He’ll stay on a special advisor, Mitsubishi said, with his former role temporarily filled by CEO Takao Kato.
“During his tenure as the president and CEO, Masuko led the company in various areas including the introduction of advanced eco conscious vehicles such as EV and PHEV, as well as the expansion of production and sales in the ASEAN region. Masuko is going to support MMC as a special advisor by fully leveraging his knowledge and experience,” the automaker said in tribute.
Masuko’s final years at Mitsubishi were marked by a crisis not of Mitsu’s making: the shock waves that rippled through the expanded alliance forged with Nissan and Renault in 2016 following the arrest of alliance boss (and Mitsubishi chairman) Carlos Ghosn in November 2018. Masuko stepped in to resume the chairman duties he vacated to Ghosn two years earlier, lending the company a measure of stability as tensions flared between Nissan and Renault.
In his own company, Mitsu’s 2017 “Drive for Growth” plan hit a snag as global volume and market share failed to achieve the goals set out at the outset of the three-year plan. Under the new leadership of Kato, and in response to both the growth plan’s partial failure and the sales-sinking pandemic, Mitsubishi changed course this year, positioning itself for a smaller future.
The new plan will see the automaker focus primarily on its home market and the growth region of Southeast Asia, reducing its investment in markets like Europe and North America. Already, the company has said it will freeze new product headed for Europe. The brand’s North American future looks dire, despite a range of refreshed 2021 product bound for these shores.