Mitsubishi Motors brings in new R&D chief, restates results after scandal

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[May 25, 2016]  By Maki Shiraki

TOKYO (Reuters) - Mitsubishi Motors appointed a Nissan Motor adviser as its head of research and development, part of a management overhaul in the wake of a mileage cheating scandal that also prompted it to mark down last year's earnings.

Nissan is preparing to take a controlling one-third stake in Mitsubishi, which is reeling from its third scandal in two decades. Mitsubishi has seen over $3 billion wiped off its market value after admitting last month it overstated the fuel economy of at least four of its models in Japan, including two sold by Nissan.

Mitsuhiko Yamashita, currently a senior technology adviser at Nissan, will take on the R&D role at Mitsubishi from June 24.

He has been closely involved with the development of all-electric cars, and helped lead Nissan's collaboration in electric fuel-cell cars with Daimler AG <DAIGn.DE> and Ford Motor Co <F.N>. He also previously headed the company's technical research center in the United States.

Mitsubishi Motors Chairman and CEO Osamu Masuko will also be president, taking over that role from Tetsuro Aikawa, who will leave the company.

Sources told Reuters that Masuko called on Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn for help after acknowledging Mitsubishi cheated on fuel economy tests, and admitted to the need to reform Mitsubishi's insular technology department based 250 km (155 miles) from the firm's Tokyo headquarters.

"There was an understanding that R&D had a big problem, so we asked Nissan for help. As a result we have welcomed Mr. Yamashita," Masuko told reporters on Wednesday.

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Masuko also said he did not plan to stay in his role after Nissan takes control later this year.

Mitsubishi, Japan's sixth-largest automaker, also announced a special loss of 19.1 billion yen ($174 million) for the year that ended in March related to its manipulation of fuel economy data.

As a result, it said net profit fell 39 percent to 72.6 billion yen in the year that ended in March. It had previously reported that profit fell by a quarter to 89 billion yen.

The company did not provide forecasts for the current year.

(Additional reporting by Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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