TOKYO -- Mitsubishi Motors' former chairman Osamu Masuko died on Thursday from heart failure. He was 71.
Masuko had stepped down from his post earlier this month due to worsening health.
A veteran of the Mitsubishi conglomerate, Masuko joined the automaker in 2004, moving over from Mitsubishi Corp., a major shareholder and supporter when Mitsubishi Motors was on the brink of a financial crisis, struggling with recalls of millions of its cars due to vehicle defects that had been covered up for decades.
He became president the following year, leading Mitsubishi Motors through years of difficulty as it tried to deal with a financial crisis brought on by recalls of millions of defective cars.
Masuko was named chairman and CEO in 2014 and was at the helm during a 2016 scandal in which the automaker was found to have overstated the mileage on its vehicles.
Last year he stepped down as CEO, replaced by Takao Kato, who was president of the company's Indonesia operations. Masuko later regained his role as chairman.
Mitsubishi received a lifeline after Masuko negotiated with then-Nissan Motor President Carlos Ghosn, in which Nissan purchased about a third of Mitsubishi's shares.
Masuko stepped in to take over duties that he ceded to Ghosn in 2018. He spent his last years at Mitsubishi focusing on initiatives to compete against other auto giants through the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi alliance.
The Coronavirus pandemic has hit sales, and Mitsubishi Motors is forecasting a net loss of 360 billion yen ($3.4 billion) for this fiscal year.
In its midterm business plan released in July, Mitsubishi Motors revealed plans to freeze new car introductions in Europe as it seeks to rebuild its business in Southeast Asia.