Suzuki announced on Wednesday that executive director Hiroshi Tsuda will become the company’s next president on April 1, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported.

Current president, Masao Toda, will step down to become a director, while chairman Osamu Suzuki will remain in his post.

With the appointment of Tsuda, 57, Suzuki aims to hand over leadership to the younger generation to prepare for the future retirement of chairman Suzuki, 72, who has served as chief executive officer since he became president in 1978.

Toda, 67, joined the company in the same year as the chairman and served as head of the engineering field before succeeding him as president in June 2000.

But there has been concern about his health since he became ill in 2001, though he returned to work from a temporary sick leave in April 2002.

Tsuda will supervise R&D, technology, production and purchases, while Suzuki will oversee the company’s overall management.

Suzuki is Japan’s largest minivehicle manufacturer with a 31% market share. But with the minicar market slumping, it aims to increase its share in the market for compact cars with 1.0-1.5 litre engines, which is seeing robust demand.

By appointing Tsuda, who has an engineering background, the firm will accelerate new car development and cuts in production costs, the report said.