Subaru makes CEO change as Japan's carmakers play catch-up on EVs

Subaru and Toyota Motor developed together and now sell different versions of essentially the same EV – the Subaru Solterra and the Toyota bZ4x. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

TOKYO – Subaru appointed Mr Atsushi Osaki as chief executive officer and president to succeed Mr Tomomi Nakamura, who oversaw a period of strong sales growth in the United States and initiated the Japanese carmaker’s pivot to electrified vehicles. 

Mr Osaki, 60, who had served as executive vice-president in charge of manufacturing will take on his new duties from June, the company said in a statement on Friday.

Mr Nakamura will become chairman. 

During Mr Nakamura’s tenure Subaru weathered pandemic restrictions, component shortages and persistent supply-chain issues to make record-breaking gains in US sales.

Even so, the auto manufacturer has yet to establish a footprint in the growing market there for electric cars.

“To change leadership during a time of such uncertainty and change will be a challenge,” Mr Osaki said on Friday.

“It’s precisely because the future is so uncertain that it’s important for the company to move forward with conviction.”

Subaru and Toyota Motor developed together and now sell different versions of essentially the same EV (electric vehicle) – the Subaru Solterra and the Toyota bZ4x.

The maker of all-wheel-drive vehicles is seen playing catchup in the global automotive industry’s race to electrify.

It has not set forth plans to produce EVs in the US, where new federal legislation is offering hefty subsidies to domestically made EVs.

Subaru will not be making an EV plant in the US anytime soon, Mr Nakamura said in November, largely because it cannot afford to pay its employees as much McDonald’s, which has a US$20 (S$27) to US$25 minimum wage in some areas.

In November, Subaru raised its forecast for operating profit by 50 per cent to 300 billion yen (S$2.96 billion) for the fiscal year ending in March 2023.

“The company has made great strides since I became CEO in 2018,” Mr Nakamura said.

“I knew I couldn’t pass the baton while the situation is unstable, but, having weathered the pandemic and avoided the worst case scenario, I believe I can do so.” BLOOMBERG

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