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Suzuki chairman Osamu Suzuki to step down

Company plans for all new cars to be electrified from 2025 after iconic leader's exit

Suzuki Motor Chairman Osamu Suzuki is stepping down confident that the company's new decision-makers have the necessary experience to lead the company. (Source photos by Reuters and AP)

TOKYO -- Osamu Suzuki, the 91-year-old chairman of Suzuki Motor, is to step down after leading the Japanese carmaker for more than 40 years and turning it into one of the world's largest producers of compact cars.

Suzuki led the company's successful expansion into India. He also led Suzuki Motor to forge a capital tie-up with Toyota Motor in 2019.

His decision to step down comes after Suzuki Motor celebrated its 100th anniversary in March 2020. He will leave in June, Suzuki Motor confirmed on Wednesday.

Suzuki Motor also set out plans for a greater push into electric cars, saying that from 2025 its electric technology will be in all its new cars, adding that it will increase the volume of such vehicles from 2030. The company also set out growth targets, saying it expects to sell 3.7 million vehicles worldwide by fiscal 2025, compared with 2.85m for the year ended last March.

That included a plan to increase sales in Asia from under 1.8 million to 2.5 million -- led by India, where Suzuki is aiming for a market share of over 50%.

A Maruti showroom in New Delhi in 1998. Suzuki Motor was the first Japanese carmaker to enter India, where it became the market leader.   © Reuters

"So far, we have only dealt with about 300 million people in India, a country with a population of 1.3 billion. We will make sure we will target the remaining 1 billion people. We will increase market share by expanding demand in rural areas," said President Toshihiro Suzuki, the son of Osamu Suzuki, at a press conference.

"Carbon neutrality is considered a national policy, and electrification is essential," said the elder Suzuki of the company's mid-term plan at the news conference. "We will focus on electrification for R&D through 2025." He also promised that the company will take speedy action to prevent a recurrence of vehicle recalls.

Osamu Suzuki had previously said he would never retire. When asked about his health, he denied that there was any issue: "I played golf 47 times last year, I'm very energetic," he said. "My job is my life. Humans die if they give up their jobs."

Osamu Suzuki joined Suzuki Motor in 1958. With the company under the leadership of his father-in-law, Shunzo Suzuki, Osamu was involved in production control and business planning. He became president in 1978.

Suzuki's 1983 decision to go into India was a first for a Japanese automaker. He established a joint venture, Maruti Udyog and built a factory. Maruti Udyog went on to become India's market leader. Later, it became Maruti Suzuki India, a subsidiary of Suzuki.

After Japan's bubble economy imploded in 1990, Suzuki Motor successfully captured demand for compact cars, which were subject to low taxes, and solidified the carmaker's leadership in the category.

In 2015, Osamu Suzuki handed over the title of president and chief operating officer to his son Toshihiro. Osamu relinquished the CEO role to Toshihiro in 2016 and became representative chairman, though he remained the company's top decision-maker as he also chaired the board of directors.

At the end of August 2019, he decided to form a capital tie-up with Toyota, deepening their partnership in the development of new technologies dubbed "CASE" -- connected, autonomous, shared and electric. Osamu intended to pave the way for Suzuki's survival in a new era of competition. Toyota has a stake of nearly 5% in Suzuki.

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