Mazda Motor Corp. outgoing President Masamichi Kogai and next president Akira Marumoto attend a news conference in Tokyo, Japan this May. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

By Bartholomew Madukwe with Agency Report

Mazda Motor Corporation on Friday said its Chief Executive Officer, Masamichi Kogai, would step down and be replaced by current vice president, Akira Marumoto, 60, who currently oversees operations in the Americas.

Kogai has been the Chief Executive Officer of Mazda Motor Corporation since June 25, 2013 and Marumoto was the company’s Director (1999-2002), Executive Officer (2002-2006), Managing Executive Officer (2006-2010), Senior Managing Executive Officer (2010-2013) and Executive Vice President (2013-present).

Mazda stated that the changes are effective June 26 after the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting.

Kogai, who became Mazda’s president and CEO in 2013, will be following the footsteps of his two immediate predecessors who also held the top job for five years each. He will still be with the automaker and become its chairman, the company said.

Mazda has had a six-year run of rising vehicle sales. With global annual sales of around 1.6 million vehicles, it is seeking to expand, particularly in North America, its biggest market which accounts for nearly 30 percent of total sales, stated Reuters.

Earlier this year, Mazda announced that it would invest in a new, $1.6 billion plant in the U.S. state of Alabama as a joint venture with Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T).

But as one of Japan’s smaller automakers, it faces growing costs to stay competitive in an industry which is being disrupted by new technologies, including self-driving cars and electric vehicles.

Mazda and Toyota are jointly developing affordable electric vehicles, pooling resources to better compete in the race for new car technologies. As part of this partnership announced last year, Toyota has taken a 5 percent stake in its smaller rival.

Last month, Mazda forecast a 28 percent drop in full-year operating profit, hurt by a stronger yen as well as higher spending.