Takanobu Ito and Takahiro Hachigo

Honda Motor's new CEO an 'unknown' engineer

Takahiro Hachigo, Honda Motor Company’s current managing officer, will became the car-maker’s CEO in June, replacing controversial former supercar engineer Takanobu Ito.

Honda announced the planned change in leadership on Monday. The decision follows a string of problems with Honda’s vehicles and ensuing recalls affecting, among others the firm’s Fit hybrid subcompact.

Although Reuters hinted, citing insider sources, that Ito resigned voluntarily, the agency also pointed to Ito’s rather disruptive managerial style.

Over the six years in the role, Ito has loosened ties with some of Honda’s traditional suppliers, in a bid to cut cost and implement more innovative technologies. According to the Reuters sources, his actions have reportedly less then pleased some of Honda’s senior executives who may have lobbied to have him replaced.

"I think this move is an attempt by Honda to tread a different course, with someone who upholds harmony," said Takaki Nakanishi, a veteran auto analyst and CEO of Nakanishi Research Institute.

Ito, originally a chassis design engineer in Honda’s automobile research and development operations, has been with the company since 1978. After stepping down as a CEO he will become an adviser and will remain on the firm's board.

Having taken up office in 2009, Ito has steered the company through the difficult years in the wake of the global economic crisis.

It has certainly not been all plain sailing for him. The launch of Honda’s Civic model failed to meet expectations, the firm got embroiled in a massive series of recalls caused by faulty air-bags by supplier Takata and its sales were affected by a series of natural disasters in Asia.

Ito’s successor Hachigo has been described as a ‘low-profile engineer with global experience.

His appointment has come as a surprise to some. Despite him being expected to join the board of Honda, Japan’s third largest car manufacturer, he is skipping several ranks by his promotion to the top job.

"Like many inside Honda, I'd thought Ito was ready to continue as CEO at least for another term," an unnamed source told Reuters.

Hachigo has joined the firm in 1988 and gained experience working at Honda’s sites across the world. He was part of the team developing the popular US Odyssey minivan and CR-V crossover. He is currently Vice President of Honda's R&D arm in China.

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