Suzuki names president's son as his successor after 37 years

TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) - Osamu Suzuki, the longest-serving leader of any major global automaker, will cede his title as president of Suzuki Motor Corp. to his son, Toshihiro Suzuki.

Toshihiro Suzuki, 56, will become president while Osamu Suzuki, 85, will stay on as chairman and CEO, the company said in a statement Tuesday.

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 as much as 5.5 per cent in Tokyo trading, the most since May 12, and closed at 4,135 yen (S$45.48).

"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 the company's dominance in India, its biggest market, where Nissan Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. are wooing customers with low-priced models. He'll also be tasked with steering 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.

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. Suzuki said last week that the arbitration proceedings have concluded, and the companies are now awaiting the arbitrators' ruling on the Japanese carmaker's effort to force VW to sell back a 19.9 percent stake.

Osamu Suzuki was born Osamu Matsuda but married into the carmaker's founding family and took his wife's last name. In 2011, he promoted four of his lieutenants to the level of executive vice president. Toshihiro Suzuki is 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, according to Tuesday's statement.

The carmaker also disclosed its new mid-term plan, including a goal of boosting annual sales to 3.7 trillion yen on deliveries of 3.4 million vehicles and 2 million motorcycles in five years.