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Toyota Retooling Executives to Challenge GM

Toyota is making leadership changes as it makes a bid to become the world's top automaker, while Japan's number two carmaker reports a better profit picture but things continue to move in reverse at Mitsubishi Motors.

The country's top vehicle maker is making leadership changes in its quest to overtake General Motors as the world's number one automotive manufacturer. Toyota says 63-year-old executive vice president Katsuaki Watanabe will be its next president, succeeding Fujio Cho, who will become vice chairman.

Toyota Chairman Hiroshi Okuda, says he will remain in his post. Mr. Okuda says the new leadership lineup is needed to give Toyota an optimal team for the 21st century. Toyota hopes to record a record profit for the fiscal year. It also aims to sell 8.5 million vehicles globally by 2006, which would put it on the same level as General Motors of the United States.

Japan's number two automaker, Nissan, says its net profit in the final quarter of 2004 rose nearly seven percent. It attributes the gain to improved sales of cars in all of its major markets. Nissan says it is on course to record a net profit for the fiscal year, which ends in March, of about $5 billion.

Also in automotive news, Mitsubishi Motors, plagued by a parts recall scandal, says its net loss has more than doubled. The automaker, now undergoing restructuring, says its losses reached nearly $2.25 billion during the last eight months of 2004.

It predicts its net loss for the full fiscal year will reach $4.5 billion.

Operators of Japan's popular beef bowl restaurants say their government's acceptance of a U.S. proposal to verify the age of cattle will not end beef shortages. The tentative agreement only applies to cattle under the age of 18 months.

Industry executives say Japanese customers should not look for U.S. beef in their bowls anytime soon. They complain that the decision still keeps imports about 80 percent below their level before American beef was banned when a U.S. cow was found to have mad cow disease.