Newspaper article International New York Times

Honda Chief to Step Down amid Issues with Quality ; Airbag Troubles Predate Executive, but His Push to Expand Raised Questions

Newspaper article International New York Times

Honda Chief to Step Down amid Issues with Quality ; Airbag Troubles Predate Executive, but His Push to Expand Raised Questions

Article excerpt

The company's main crisis, which stems from faulty Takata airbags, predates Takanobu Ito's tenure. But his efforts to quickly expand drew criticism.

Honda Motor said on Monday that it would replace its president and chief executive, Takanobu Ito, a move that some interpreted as an attempt to draw a line under recent quality problems.

Honda has grappled recently with a series of quality problems and development delays. Although the origins of some of the problems -- notably faulty airbags made by the Japanese supplier Takata -- predate Mr. Ito's tenure, other complications have been easier to attribute to him and his management team.

Mr. Ito appointed a senior managing officer last year to oversee quality, a first at the company, in response to an embarrassing string of events. They included a half-dozen recalls over one year for one of Honda's best sellers, the Fit subcompact, after a redesigned model was introduced in 2013.

Mr. Ito, 61, said the decision to step aside had been his, and he acknowledged that there had been difficulties during his tenure.

"At a time of rapid change and increasingly harsh global competition, I though it was a good opportunity to bring in young energy to lead Honda," he said at a news conference.

Mr. Ito will be replaced by Takahiro Hachigo, 55, whose recent duties have included overseeing the automaker's European and Chinese operations. The change will take effect after Honda's annual shareholders meeting in June, Honda said. Mr. Ito will remain on the board, with the title of senior adviser.

Mr. Hachigo is little known outside the company, but his career path resembles those of past Honda presidents, including Mr. Ito. He is an engineer who has spent his whole career at Honda, and he has overseen the development of popular models like the Odyssey minivan and CR-V crossover.

"He's the sort of person who listens to everyone and promotes other people's opinions," said Koji Endo, a veteran car industry analyst at Advanced Research Japan. He said Mr. Hachigo's style was "180 degrees away from Ito's," which he described as more "dictatorial."

Mr. Ito became president in 2009. …

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