TOKYO – Subaru has appointed Atsushi Osaki as its next CEO, tasking the manufacturing chief to steer the small-sized Japanese automaker through a challenging era of electrification, automated driving and industry upheaval as it strives to rekindle U.S. sales.
The next boss, speaking at a press conference on Friday, said that flexibility and expansion will be key focal points of his tenure. Subaru will be flexible in quickly respsonding to market trends, such as electrification. And it will seek to grow in the U.S. and new markets such as Australia.
“We at Subaru want to survive the age of electrification by being nimble,” Osaki said. “We will put various systems in place while focusing on flexibility and expansion.”
The U.S., which constitutes Subaru’s biggest market by far, still holds lots of potential, he said.
“I believe we can still grow our sales in the U.S.,” Osaki said.
“We also receive a lot of customer inquiries from Japan, Asia, Australia, and Canada, as well,” he said. “At the moment, we are unable to meet such potential demand due to chip shortages, but we will work to resolve such issues and seek to further increase our sales globally.”
Osaki, 60, most recently served as global production chief but has a long backround in quality assurance, serving at the chief quality officer in recent years to root out quality problems.
Osaki takes office in June and joins a reconstituted Subaru board that month, pending approval at the annual shareholders’ meeting traditionally held in June.
Current CEO Tomomi Nakamura, 63, will become chairman under the wide-ranging management shuffle announced in Tokyo.
Nakamura took the helm in 2018 during a difficult period for the all-wheel-drive specialist brand. At the time, Subaru was besieged by a vehicle inspection problem in Japan that hurt the brand’s image in the domestic market. And mushrooming quality problems led to embarrassing recalls, while marring critical product launches, such as that of the Ascent large crossover.
Nakamura made quality improvement a top priority of his tenure and implemented sweeping reforms to relieve production pressure on overburdened factories.
Osaki was tapped to spearhead that quality initiative as the chief quality officer in 2018.
A graduate of the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, the Tokyo-native joined Fuji Heavy Industries, as Subaru was previously called, in April 1988.
At the Tokyo press conference, Osaki said one of his pastimes is eating ramen.