Mitsubishi’s former chairman Osamu Masuko dies at 71

by SpeedLux
Toyota Motor Corp President Akio Toyoda (L) and Suzuki Motor Chairman and CEO Osamu Suzuki attend their joint news conference in Tokyo, Japan, October 12, 2016. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

Mitsubishi Motors’ former chairman Osamu Masuko has died from heart failure, the Japanese automaker stated on Monday.

Masuko was born on 19 February 1949 in Tokyo, Japan. He was 71 years old.

Masuko, a veteran of the Mitsubishi conglomerate, had resigned as chairman 2 weeks ago due to health reasons. He became the automaker’s president in 2005 and oversaw the formation of the partnership between Mitsubishi and Nissan Motor.

Mitsubishi Motors said he died on August 27.

“(H)e built solid relationships with the management of partners, the Alliance companies, and the Mitsubishi Group through good communications by leveraging his personality and extensive connections,” the automaker said.

His death comes as the alliance between Mitsubishi, Nissan, and Renault continues to have a hard time regaining profitability in the aftermath of the ouster of former alliance boss Carlos Ghosn.

Masuko was at the helm of Mitsubishi during a 2016 scandal in which the automaker was discovered to have overstated the mileage on its automobiles. An investigation revealed slack governance and pressure on resource-starved engineers as chronic issues at the automaker.

The scandal – Mitsubishi’s third in two decades – battered profits and further affected the automaker’s brand. Nissan lent its smaller rival a lifeline, providing it $2.2 billion for a 34% controlling stake.

The deal was agreed between Masuko and then Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn and brought Mitsubishi in as a junior partner in the Nissan-Renault automotive alliance.

Masuko later denounced his ties with Ghosn after the latter’s 2018 arrest in Japan over suspected financial misconduct. Ghosn has denied the charges.

All three members of the alliance are presently mired in financial problems, after years of expansion policies under Ghosn’s leadership resulted in declining vehicle sales.

A further decline in global car demand because of the coronavirus crisis has worsened these problems, and Mitsubishi, Nissan, and Renault are each bracing for steep annual operating losses this year.

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