The third largest Japanese automaker, Honda Motor, surprisingly announced that its current chief executive officer – Takanobu Ito – would vacate the post in late June after six years running the carmaker.
The automaker also added that the appointed successor would be Managing Officer Takahiro Hachigo, a low-profile engineer that has global experience. The announcement comes after several misses by the company: quality problems have led to multiple, successive, recalls of popular models – including the Fit hybrid subcompact, with Ito acknowledging earlier this month the former issues were at least in part the consequence of an overly aggressive delivery target. Additionally, the internal woes have been compounded by the multi-million-unit recalls triggered by top supplier Takata Corp. Honda is the auto safety parts maker’s largest client and as such took the heaviest damage after the supplier started recalling airbag inflators – they could explode with too much damage, sending shrapnel and metal debris into the cabin at high velocity. Six deaths have been linked – all in Honda vehicles.
Ito, 61, has been hard at work during the past three years to redesign Honda’s decades-old, tightly-knit supply strategy as the automaker embarked on a cost reduction program and sought new, cutting-edge technologies. That might be at least in part a reason for Ito’s demise, as the shake-up has upset numerous local parts makers and several former Honda executives that still have influence. Analysts see the replacement as a drive towards “harmony,” though most of them – or even former Honda executives – were caught off guard by the decision after Ito seemed poised to continue for at least another term at the helm of the carmaker.