TOKYO — Mitsubishi Motors’ former Chief Executive Osamu Masuko, who engineered the automaker’s alliance with Nissan, has died. He was 71.
Masuko was named a special adviser to the company when he resigned for health reasons as of Aug. 7. Mitsubishi Motors said he died of heart failure on Aug. 27.
Masuko joined with Nissan’s former chairman Carlos Ghosn in forming an alliance in 2016. Ghosn was arrested and charged with alleged financial misconduct in late 2018, but skipped bail and fled to Lebanon.
After he was named president of Mitsubishi Motors in 2005, Masuko worked hard to rebuild its brand image, which had been hammered by a massive, systematic and decades-long cover-up of defects that surfaced in the early 2000s.
He made several trips to the Philippines during his reign, the last one of which was the launch of the Mitsubishi Outlander in Cebu while the eruption of the Taal Volcano was just starting last January.
Calm and soft-spoken, Masuko came to symbolize the Mitsubishi Motors’ revitalization.
Masuko said he was stunned and sad by Ghosn’s arrest.
“I still can’t figure out why, and I just don’t understand,” he told reporters then.
Mitsubishi’s alliance with Nissan and Renault of France was seen as an astute move, giving the automakers’ an edge in an increasingly competitive global market.
“During his tenure for about 16 years at MMC, Masuko made great achievements by fully demonstrating his management skills, which also enabled the company to overcome difficulties,” Mitsubishi Motors said.
Masuko helped build the company’s business in Southeast Asia, a key source of growth for the company. He also aggressively pushed the development of ecological models.
Masuko studied political science and economics at Waseda University and did not have an engineering background. He joined trading company Mitsubishi Corp. in 1972.
In 2004, he joined the manufacturer of the Pajero and Outlander sport utility vehicles, as managing director of its overseas operations.
Tokyo-based Mitsubishi Motors said it is not planning any special services, respecting Masuko’s wishes. The family has already held a vigil and funeral, it said.
FILE PHOTO shows Mitsubishi Motors CEO Osamu Masuko biting his lips during a press conference at its headquarters in Tokyo. Mitsubishi Motors Corp. Special Adviser Osamu Masuko, who engineered the alliance with Nissan, has died, the Japanese automaker said Monday, Aug. 31, 2020. He was 71. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)