Osamu Masuko, the longtime Mitsubishi Motors boss who guided his company through turbulent waters, helped craft an alliance with Nissan and partner Renault, only to find his ship back in storm-tossed seas, has died just three weeks after his unexpected departure.
Masuko died on Thursday, aged 71, Japanese media reports. The former chairman announced his resignation on August 7th.
What wasn’t mentioned in Mitsubishi’s official send-off to Masuko, who joined Mitsubishi Motors in 2004 before becoming its president a year later, was that the executive was in seriously declining health, though health was indeed listed as the reason for his resignation. His cause of death is listed as heart failure.
“On behalf of the deceased former Chairman, Mr. Masuko, we would like to express our sincere gratitude for the generosity that he and MMC received,” said current CEO Takao Kato in a statement.
First tasked with turning around a serious quality and PR issue, Masuko’s tenure saw the executive bolster the brand’s standing (and manufacturing presence) in the Southeast Asia region — a key market for the automaker’s future. Named CEO and chairman in 2014, he helped bring the struggling company into the Renault-Nissan Alliance, thus ensuring access to new technologies and platforms. At the same time, he championed the development of electrified vehicles like the Outlander PHEV.
His presence during the 2018 arrest of Carlos Ghosn — and the alliance-rocking drama that followed — was no doubt reassuring to Mitsubishi employees. With the chairman hat swatted off Ghosn’s head by Japanese authorities, Masuko donned it once again, helping his company craft a going-forward plan designed to shore up its financial foundation. With the automaker’s prior growth plan not exactly panning out in north America and Europe, the Mitsubishi brand, much like its alliance partners, will focus on its strengths in receptive markets.
Masuko was succeeded as CEO last year by Kato, but remained in the chairman role.
“His wisdom and foresight will remain as an inspiration to the automotive industry, and we will always honor his memory,” said Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida in a statement.