By Aries B. Espinosa

JUST two years and four months into his term as president and CEO of Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corp. (MMPC), Yoshiaki Kato, who at 49 became the youngest to assume the company’s highest position in March 2015, turned over the helm to Mutsuhiro Oshikiri in ceremonies held on July 27 at a Parañaque City hotel complex.

Kato leaves, Oshikiri takes over MitsubishiMr. Kato leaves an MMPC basking in 10 consecutive years of continuous sales growth, starting in 2007 when the company sold just a cumulative 15,005 units, to 61,400 units in 2016, maintaining its firm hold as the second best-selling automaker in the country.

Kozo Shiraji, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. (MMC) executive vice-president and chief performance officer, who flew in from Japan for the ceremonial send-off of Mr. Kato, and to introduce Mr. Oshikiri, told the guests that though Mr. Kato’s assignment in the Philippines had been just for two years; “I’m proud to tell you that during that time, he has been able to lead the company towards remarkable achievements.”

Mr. Shiraji then enumerated these landmark events under Mr. Kato’s watch, starting with MMPC’s unprecedented sales, to the SUV Montero Sport’s win in the annual Car of the Year-Philippines, MMPC’s transfer of its manufacturing plant and offices from Cainta, Rizal, to Santa Rosa City, Laguna, and the automaker being the first to gain approval from the Department of Trade and Industry-Board of Investments to participate in the Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy (CARS) program.

Mr. Kato, for his part, gave credit to his team in MMPC. “All these achievements were made possible with everyone’s hard work and cooperation,” he told the audience in his farewell message, citing the support of dealers, suppliers and colleagues. He also said that he was “looking forward to his new assignment in Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited (MMAL),” but that he was hoping that his “path would cross again” with the Philippines.

Mr. Shiraji introduced Mr. Oshikiri as a career executive with vast experience in Mitsubishi’s global affairs, having started with the automaker in 1980 in MMC in Japan, moving on to executive assignments in the after service business in Syria, the ASEAN department of MMC, Mitsubishi Motors of Thailand, Mitsubishi Motors Sales in the Caribbean, and in MMAL, the last one as its CEO since 2012.

Mr. Oshikiri officially assumed his role as MMPC president and CEO on Tuesday, Aug. 1.

Before the turnover program ended, MMPC unveiled what could very well be Mr. Kato’s “parting gift” for the Philippine market: The first locally assembled Mitsubishi Mirage Hatchback to roll out of MMPC’s assembly plant in Sta. Rosa. The unveiling also served as a formal announcement that the mass production of both the Mirage G4 and the Hatchback at the plant had commenced.

The Mirage G4 and Hatchback models are MMPC’s entry to the CARS program, which ultimately aims to position the Philippines as ASEAN’s car assembly hub by attracting new investments into the sector and generating increased consumer demand within the Philippines.

MMPC’s inclusion in CARS involved a P4.3-billion investment by the company in its production facilities, enabling it to mass produce the subcompact which had previously been imported from Thailand.