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Japanese Automaker Announces Change in Leadership - 2002-03-29

Japan's fourth largest automaker has announced a change in leadership and the country's dominant mobile phone carrier braces for a heavy loss.

Japan's Mitsubishi Motors said Wednesday it has appointed an executive brought in from its partner, DaimlerChrysler, as president and chief executive officer. Rolf Eckrodt will replace the current president, Takashi Sonobe, in June.

The move reflects DaimlerChrysler's desire to gain more control of Mitsubishi. It owns a 37 percent stake in the Japanese carmaker.

Mr. Eckrodt, who is German, will be the third westerner to head one of Japan's five major automakers. Nissan and Mazda also have foreign leadership.

Mr. Eckrodt told reporters in Tokyo that he hopes to make rapid progress with the company's restructuring program. "We want to be measured by results," he said. "There will be no compromise in that commitment."

Meanwhile, Japan and China have completed an accord aimed at maintaining a stable currency market. Bank of Japan chief Masaru Hayami and People's Bank of China Governor Dai Xianglong signed the deal Thursday. It enables the central banks to provide each other with up to three billion dollars if either experiences a short-term drop in foreign exchange reserves.

Japan's financial daily, Nihon Keizai, reports that NTT DoCoMo, the country's top mobile phone operator, is expected to post a loss of $7.5 billion for this fiscal year.

The estimated loss is due to expensive overseas investments related to third-generation mobile phone service. The expected deficit would push DoCoMo to record its first loss since it went public four years ago.