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Suzuki to name president's son as his successor, Nikkei says

[TOKYO] 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, Nikkei reported.

Osamu Suzuki, 85, will stay on as chairman and CEO of the company, Nikkei said, without saying where it got the information. He and Toshihiro Suzuki, 56, will meet the press at 6 pm in Tokyo to discuss the company's management structure and its mid-term business plan, the carmaker said in an e-mail Tuesday. Ei Mochizuki, a spokesman for Suzuki, declined to comment on the Nikkei report.

An announcement naming Toshihiro Suzuki as the next president would ease uncertainty about management succession at Suzuki, where his father has served as either chairman, president or CEO since 1978. Suzuki rose as much as 5.5 per cent in Tokyo trading, the most since May 12, and closed at 4,135 yen.

"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 would 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 would also steer 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 per cent stake.

Osamu Suzuki, who was born Osamu Matsuda but married into the carmaker's founding family and took his wife's last name, promoted four of his lieutenants in 2011 to the level of executive vice presidents. Toshihiro Suzuki is among the four, heading the company's overseas business.

Nikkei also said the carmaker will disclose its new mid- term plan, including a goal of boosting annual sales to 3.7 trillion yen in five years.