Mazda’s O’Sullivan to retire as head of N.A. operations; Masahiro Moro to take helm Jan. 1

Jim O’Sullivan, CEO and president of North America operations for Mazda, with the Takeri prototype at the New York Auto Show in April 2012.

LOS ANGELES — Jim O’Sullivan, an auto industry veteran and current CEO of Mazda’s North American Operations, will retire at the end of the year, the automaker said today. Mazda has named Masahiro Moro as O’Sullivan’s successor.

O’Sullivan, 62, has been at the helm of Mazda’s North American Operations since 2003 and has help guide the tiny Japanese brand out of the Ford era and into its own niche of efficient, sporty cars and crossovers.

“I could not be more sad to see Jim leave Mazda,” Masamichi Kogai, CEO of Mazda Motor Corp., said in a statement. “Both personally and on behalf of all Mazda executives and employees, I would like to express my gratitude to Jim for his many years of service and the huge contribution he has made to our company.”

Under O’Sullivan’s watch, the company’s annual U.S. retail sales rose nearly 16 percent from 2004 — his first full year in charge — to 2014. They are up another 3.2 percent in 2015; Mazda is on pace for its best retail year in more than 20 years.

O’Sullivan also oversaw the opening of Mazda’s assembly plant in Salamanca, Mexico, in early 2014. It was the company’s first North American production base since it stopped making cars at a Flat Rock, Mich., plant it shared with Ford in 2012.

Prior to joining Mazda in April 2003, O’Sullivan was a Ford guy. He joined that company in 1976 and eventually worked as Lincoln brand manager and finally franchise and business development manager for Lincoln-Mercury.

O’Sullivan will be replaced at Mazda by another industry veteran. Moro, 55, has been with Mazda since 1983, and most recently was global sales and marketing boss for Mazda Motor Corp.

Moro will be moving with his wife and children to southern California in early 2016.

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