Honda Motor Co. president Takanobu Ito will step down by the middle of 2015, to be replaced by current managing officer, and experienced chassis engineer, Takahiro Hachigo.
The announcement follows a string of quality issues and recalls in recent times that saw a number of top Honda executives, including Ito and 12 others, take pay cuts last October.
In a staggered process, Hachigo, 55, will become senior managing officer from April, and will take the reins as president, CEO and representative director from late June. Ito, 61 (pictured above), who has served as Honda Motor chief for six years, will remain with the company as a director and advisor.
The succession will occur following the final (foregone, seemingly) approval of the Honda Motor Board of Directors after the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting due in late June 2015.
By all appearances, Hachigo has skipped a few rungs on the corporate ladder with his elevation.
Hachigo has been with Honda since 1982, and brings to the table decades of engineering and development experience, as well as multiple tenures in the US, Europe and China — undoubtedly a factor given Honda’s continuing diversification of its manufacturing arm beyond Japan.
Hachigo was in charge of developing the first-generation US domestic-market Odyssey launched in 1999. He then led development of the second-generation CR-V launched in 2001.
He has served tenures as, respectively, Honda Americas R&D vice-president, COO and managing officer between 2004 and 2008, then served as a purchasing executive, then as general manager of Honda’s Suzuka factory in Japan, and VP and director of Honda Motor Europe between April 2012 and March 2013. He was then a VP of Honda Motor (China) Investment Co.
Ito joined Honda in 1978 and began his career in the company’s automobile research and development operations, primarily as a chassis design engineer. Ito was in charge of developing the all-aluminum uni-body frame structure for the highly acclaimed first-generation NSX sports car.
He took the reins as president in 2009 on the tail-end of the GFC, a period in which Honda curbed its R&D expenditure and cancelled a number of projects (such as the second-generation NSX that was axed in late 2008).
Ito subsequently led Honda through Thai floods and Japanese tsunamis that decimated production centres and parts suppliers and a period of unfavourable exchange rates before the more recent devaluation of the Yen.
During Ito’s leadership, Honda shifted its global manufacturing structure, notably with the establishment of plants in Mexico, Brazil, Thailand (where Australia gets most of its cars, for better or worse), Indonesia, India and China.
The company has most recently been impacted by the global recall of millions of Takata airbags, as well as production issues on popular models such as the Fit Hybrid (known here as the Jazz), and has also lost sales ground in the massive US market against the likes of Nissan.