December 11 2008.

Suzuki Motor Corp. has announced that Chairman Osamu Suzuki, 78, will double as president effective from today, taking over the position from Hiroshi Tsuda, who is stepping down for health reasons.

"Because of the sharply deteriorating economic environment, we need a setup that can handle emergencies," the chairman told a news conference. "I will spearhead restructuring efforts" amid the global automobile sales slump.

Mr Suzuki served as president of the carmaker from 1978 to 2000.

Tsuda, 63, signaled his intention to resign at the beginning of this month, and the maker of minivehicles and motorcycles held a board meeting Wednesday to finalize it. He will become an adviser to the firm.

Three senior managing executive officers -- Takashi Nakayama, 64, Takao Hirosawa, 62, and Minoru Tamura, 60 -- will hold representative rights, with Nakayama in charge of technology, Hirosawa overseeing relationship management and Tamura responsible for sales.

"I must serve until the economy gets better," said Suzuki, indicating that he will remain as president for at least a few years.

The change in management has revealed a gap in the firm's long-standing effort to cultivate successors. Hirotaka Ono, an executive married to Mr Suzuki's daughter and a candidate groomed to succeed Tsuda, died in December of last year at the age of 52.

"Although we need to be passing the baton to younger leaders, we'll ride out the business crisis with the current management team this time around," Suzuki said.

The three executives with representative rights, along with Senior Managing Executive Officer Toshihiro Suzuki, the chairman's eldest son, are now considered among the most likely to eventually succeed the senior Suzuki.

Source: The Nikkei Thursday morning edition.