Honda replaces CEO Takanobu Ito with Takahiro Hachigo

At its upcoming shareholders’ meeting in June, Honda is set to make a raft of changes to its senior personnel, including new board members, directors, auditors and operating officers. But the most pivotal of the new appointments will see the replacement of its president and chief executive.

That job currently belongs to Takanobu Ito, who will step down in June and hand the reins over to Takahiro Hachigo, subject to ratification by the shareholders.

Hachigo-san has been with Honda since 1982, rising up the ranks and holding a series of key executive and R&D posts with the Japanese automaker in locations around the world – including here in the United States, where he spearheaded development of the original Odyssey minivan and directed the company’s American R&D center. He subsequently headed Honda’s European operations and currently serves as its most senior officer in China. He’s 55 years old.

He takes over from Ito-san after a tumultuous period for Honda. Ito, 62, joined Honda in 1978 and similarly rose through the R&D ranks, holding some of the same positions along the way that Hachigo would later, albeit more focused on the company’s operations at home in Japan. Ito took over as president and CEO in 2009, steering Honda through a difficult period marked by fluctuating currencies, the tsunami disaster of 2011 and flagging quality issues that have forced Honda to issue unprecedented recalls, focusing much criticism on Ito’s leadership. Honda recently recalled millions of vehicles that were fitted with Takata’s faulty airbag inflators, which had the unpleasant tendency to spew shrapnel at consumers.

Ito will remain on board as a director and advisor, but what we’ll be most interested to see is the direction in which Hachigo will take the company. Under Ito’s leadership, Honda has brought back performance icons like the NSX and Civic Type R, launched innovative environmental technologies, delved into aerospace with the HondaJet and re-entered Formula One. One of Hachigo’s first priorities will undoubtedly be to restore the company’s reputation for quality, but we’ll have to wait and see what (if any) sort of new and exciting developments he’ll spearhead once he takes office.

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