By Maki Shiraki
TOKYO (Reuters) - Mitsubishi Motors Corp <7211.T> will appoint Managing Director Tetsuro Aikawa to replace Osamu Masuko as president, while Masuko, who has led the automaker for the past nine years, will become chairman after stepping aside, sources close to the matter said on Friday.
The new structure will take effect on April 1, the sources said, declining to be identified because the decision is not public. Chairman Takashi Nishioka will resign, they said.
The management changes would come as Japan's second-tier automaker seeks to leave behind an arduous decade of slumping sales and a tenuous capital structure that had threatened its standing in the increasingly competitive global auto industry.
Mitsubishi Motors this month raised more than $2 billion mainly to buy back preferred shares issued to sister companies in the Mitsubishi group, which funded the automaker's bailout after a failed capital alliance with then-DaimlerChrysler and a debilitating recall cover-up scandal.
Mitsubishi Motors said in a statement that no decision had been made regarding any changes at the top. The planned management reshuffle was first reported in the Nikkei business daily on Friday.
Aikawa will be faced with the task of putting the car maker on a growth track by relying on operational tie-ups to save costs and make up for its lack of scale.
The maker of the Pajero and Outlander SUVs last year announced a potentially wide-ranging project-based alliance with Nissan Motor Co <7201.T> and Renault SA
Aikawa, a 35-year veteran of Mitsubishi Motors, hails from an engineering background with expertise in product development and manufacturing. His father is a former president and chairman of the car maker's top shareholder, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd <7011.T>, earning him the moniker "Prince" within the Mitsubishi conglomerate.
Masuko, 64, has won wide respect among investors since arriving in 2005 from trading house affiliate Mitsubishi Corp <8058.T> with the seemingly herculean task of reviving the battered carmaker.
(Editing by Chang-Ran Kim)