TOKYO – Mazda Motor Corp. has appointed Masahiro Moro, a long-time veteran of its critical North American operations, to be the automaker’s next CEO as the company navigates a tricky transition to electrification.
Moro, who was chairman of Mazda Motor of America before becoming head of the company’s administrative division in 2021, will take the post in June, pending approval at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting.
Moro takes over from Akira Marumoto, who has served as president and CEO since 2018. Marumoto, 65, will become a senior advisor. Kiyotaka Shobuda will remain as chairman.
Moro was promoted partly for his success at reforming the U.S. dealer network while in the U.S. and for rebuilding the profitability of Mazda’s business there, Marumoto said at a news conference on Friday.
Moro said boosting sales per outlet in the U.S. is a key target in the automaker’s most important market and said the arrival of two new large-size crossovers will power a U.S. surge.
The management shuffle also promotes current North America boss Jeffrey Guyton to become Mazda’s global finance chief and a member of the parent company’s board.
Guyton will be based in Hiroshima. He will keep his role as head of North American operations while adding responsibility for cost innovation and adding the title “assistant to the president.”
Guyton’s new role is intended to inject fresh perspective into the export-dependent Japanese automaker, which gets 86 percent of its sales from outside Japan and 36 percent from North America.
“We want to bring fresh eyes to the company,” Moro said at the news conference.
Moro said he will pursue two priorities.
“One is to successfully roll out large products, which will be a major growth driver for putting the company on a growth trajectory,” he said.
“The second is to implement company-wide cost reduction activities, including all supply chains and value chains, in order to further improve management efficiency going forward, so as to make our overall business more robust,” Moro added.
The management changes represent a strengthened focus on North America for Mazda, as it rolls out new crossovers and steps up its play in electrified vehicles.
Mazda said in November it will invest 1.5 trillion yen ($10.6 billion) into electrification through 2030 with a string of new partnerships targeting everything from batteries and motors to computer chips in an attempt to catch up in global race for new technologies.
The investment could include EV production in the U.S. as early as 2026-2027, the second phase of the company’s just-updated mid-term business plan.
U.S. retail reform
Mazda’s U.S. sales fell 11 percent to 294,908 vehicles in 2022, in an overall market down 8 percent. Its market share dipped to 2.1 percent from 2.2 percent the year before.
The automaker is expecting an upswing in U.S. business on this year’s expected rollout of thenew CX-70 and CX-90 crossovers. Those upmarket, higher-margin products are positioned to help generate the profits that will power Mazda’s investment into next-generation electrification.
In the U.S., Mazda has exceeded its goal of renovating 300 retail outlets to new facilities and expects to hit around 360 stores, Moro said. Another key goal is boosting per-store volume so that dealers can reap bigger sales and have more money to re-invest in their businesses.
Mazda had 540 dealerships in the U.S. at the end of December. As newly renovated outlets, Mazda is targeting throughput of 1,000 units per store as an interim goal, and will consider raising that to 1,200.
“We are going to secure growth together with the dealers,” Moro said.
Mazda expects EVs to make up between 25 and 40 percent of its global sales in 2030. That is up from Mazda’s earlier outlook, which anticipated that EVs would account for just a quarter of all volume. But the automaker is keeping the target as a flexible range to account for all the unknowns.
Moro, 62, is fluent in English and comfortable in international circles. He joined Mazda in 1983, when the company was still called Toyo Kogyo Co. He worked in the company’s global marketing operations and was head of Mazda in Europe from 2004 to 2008. Moro became president and CEO of Mazda Motor of America in 2016.
Guyton, 56, started his career at Ford Motor in 1996, when the U.S. automaker still had a controlling stake in Mazda. He joined Mazda in 2000 as a general manager in its planning division and rotated through roles in Europe before becoming president of Mazda’s regional business there. He took over as present of Mazda Motor of America in 2019.
Moro’s appointment is the latest within Japan’s group of Toyota-affiliated automakers.
In January, Toyota announced Koji Sato will succeed Akio Toyoda as CEO from April 1, and earlier this month, Subaru said Atsushi Osaki will succeed Tomomi Nakamura in June. Toyota has a 20 percent stake in Subaru and a 5 percent stake in Mazda.
Subaru and Mazda regularly change CEOs on a cadence of roughly five years.
Naoto Okamura contributed to this report