Changes are afoot at Honda’s Japanese headquarters as the company works to recover from internal tensions and its role in the Takata airbag scandal.
Headlining the changes is the unexpected ousting of global CEO, Takanobu Ito, 61, who has led the company since 2009.
The announcement, made today by Ito himself, confirmed that he will step down in late June. He named Takahiro Hachigo as his successor, a decision expected to be ratified at that month’s annual shareholders’ meeting.
“We are going forward,” Ito told media in a briefing at the company’s Japan headquarters. “I believe this is a good opportunity to revamp our entire operations.”
“In 2015, Honda is ready to make a huge leap forward. To do this, I believe, Honda needs to overcome challenges under a new, younger leader as a team.”
Ito’s time at the helm saw him lead Honda out of the global financial crisis, Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, and floods in Thailand that devastated the company’s production facilities there.
His greatest trial came with the recent Takata airbag controversy, leading to a global recall of millions of vehicles to replace faulty systems that have so far been linked to six deaths.
Although not the only carmaker affected, the Takata case also saw Honda fined US$70 million - the largest penalty ever levied against a carmaker - for failing to disclose more than 1700 complaints it had received about the faulty airbags.
Ito’s run as CEO was not without success, however. Apart from leading the carmaker through financial hardships in the latter end of the last decade (Honda was one of the few to avert a full-year loss), he instituted a number of internal reforms and launched major new product programs.
Key among them was the recent retooling of Honda’s R&D division, deliberately slowing development and adding more quality checks.
Honda’s global sales grew 28.5 percent under Ito’s leadership and - like new Toyota boss Akio Toyoda - he has revived Honda’s sporting genes, encouraging the development of new Civic Type R and NSX models, while returning the brand to the Formula 1 racing world.
He will be replaced by 55 year-old Takahiro Hachigo, who joined Honda in 1982 as a chassis design engineer.
Since 2004, he has worked in senior management roles across the company’s global research and development operations, including influential roles in the US, Europe and most recently China.
“Mr. Ito set about making major reforms,” Hachigo said. “Now in 2015, we have reached the stage where we can deliver the results of these efforts in tangible forms to our customers.”
The carmaker’s board and senior management will also be shuffled in the change of leadership, including changes with the company’s North American operations.
Honda’s research and development arm will get a new chief, and the automobile division will also get new leadership.
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