Published on February 24th, 2015 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez0
Honda gets new CEO
In the wake of Honda’s CEO stepping down over airbag related issues, Honda is quick to appoint a new CEO to helm the ship. In true Honda fashion, every CEO throughout the years has cut their teeth in Honda’s Research and Development division- something that hails back to the ideology of Soichiro Honda. Where most other companies have CEOs that are more specialised in business or other areas, Honda has stayed true to an engineering-driven approach through this very requirement. When the head of a company has gone through the trenches and paid their dues in the engineering department, they tend to be more understanding of what is necessary to achieve certain goals.
Honda Motor has announced that Takahiro Hachigo, currently the company’s Managing Officer, will become Senior Managing Officer effective in April 2015, and will become President, Chief Executive Officer and Representative Director in late June 2015. Takanobu Ito, the current President, Chief Operating Officer and Representative Director, will remain on the board and assume the post of Director and Advisor to Honda Motor. While western companies are more eager to find a scapegoat and make an example of them in the face of trouble, Japanese companies believe in loyalty and commitment to the company- and this is an idea that works both ways. The role of an ‘advisor’ is a common concept for Japanese companies, in that these senior employees will still have a role in the company, though they cannot make decisions.
Hachigo has had an interesting life at Honda, starting at the company in 1982 in their research and development operations. He specialised in chassis design, although his first major project was the U.S.-built Odyssey MPV for the 1999 model year. He proceeded to work on the second generation CR-V, for a global market in 2001.
Honda R&D Americas is one of the more prestigious divisions under Honda’s umbrella, as they are in charge of developing the models for the large region. Hachigo became the Senior Vice President for the R&D division from 2004 to 2006, soon becoming the Managing Officer by 2007. One year later, he moved on to an entirely different area of Honda: Purchasing Division No.2. He started off as a General Manager, but his next large jump was working in Honda’s Suzuka Factory as a General Manager, circa 2011.
At this point, it seems as though Honda was grooming Hachigo to eventually take the lead for the company. His next posting was as Vice President of Honda Europe, placed in the U.K., from 2012 to 2013. During his tenure, he also functioned as Vice President of Honda R&D Europe- again, R&D was and still is a big part of Honda’s identity. Between then and now, Hachigo completed a stint in Honda Motor (China) Investment, where he also had roles in Development and Purchasing and Production. At this point it’s clear that he has plenty of experience, both in R&D and as well as a more holistic idea of the markets in different regions. Europe and China are becoming equally as important for Honda as America, and his time there has made him an ideal candidate for role of CEO.
While Ito has had a tough time in leading Honda, he was not without his share of accolades. 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 – an instant classic. He worked on developing automobile plants in South America and Asia, helping to expand Honda’s global network. He introduced Earth Dreams Technology, aiming to improve Honda’s green image.
But most important for enthusiasts, Ito gave the green light for the S660, Civic Type R, and NSX that are all due to be launched in the year to come. There are car companies that have these concepts but they rarely, if never, see the light of a production line. Ito’s determination to bring fun back to Honda has resulted in these models, and while he may be the subject of controversy, enthusiasts owe him a great deal of gratitude.