Most of the Western media has covered the recent announcement that Takahiro Hachigo will succeed Takanobu Ito as President of Honda as an indication that Ito is taking the rap for the recent Takata airbag recall, but the Nikkei Business magazine has a somewhat different angle on this. Ito had a 6 year innings, which is pretty standard for a Japanese president, and this is the season for announcing top executive changes in time for the start of the new financial year in April, and the shareholders’ meetings in June. In fact, according to the Nikkei, Hachigo was pretty much the successor chosen by Ito himself, to carry on the strategies that Ito had been pushing since 2009 in order to globalize Honda, through 6 global hubs.
Hachigo had experience in many of those global hubs – including a year at Honda Europe pushing through restructuring there, as well as North America and China. What is more unusual, says the Nikkei, is that Ito has broken the unwritten rule in nominating Hachigo, set by founder Soichiro Honda, that Honda presidents should have been the president of Honda R&D. Hachigo only got to a “Managing Officer” board position.
Unusually for a Japanese car company, Honda R&D is an entirely separate company, to which Honda Motor pays a fixed proportion of sales each year. Ito has commented that his globalization strategy is now facing problems in the R&D side – the current president of the R&D company is stepping down, and being replaced by Koichi Fukuo, who had been heading up product quality, and was seen as a possible presidential successor to Ito.
Ito is not going to become chairman, which would be the usual position for a retiring president, so he does seem to be stepping away somewhat, but very much with “his men” in position it appears.
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