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Honda CEO Steps Down Amid Weak Sales And Recalls

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Honda surprised investors on Monday by naming a low-profile engineer to replace its CEO Takanobu Ito, who is stepping down after the automaker has struggled with dwindling sales and damaging recalls.

The outgoing CEO will step down from his post in June, while he will remain on the board as a director and advisor.

Problems confound for Honda

Honda CEO Takanobu is resigning after a six year term in which the carmaker has had to deal with the global financial crisis, natural disasters and more recently, damaging recalls.

The Japanese automaker’s surprise announcement comes after Honda recalled millions of vehicles due to faulty airbags produced by another Japanese company, Takata. As reported by ValueWalk, Honda issued a new recall of 170,000 cars worldwide last November after disclosing that a woman was killed in Malaysia after her airbag ruptured and deadly shrapnel was sent into the thorax of the driver. With this recall, Honda has so far recalled 6.2 million cars due to problems with Takata airbags.

However, the problems with Takata’s airbags were not confined only to Honda. Ten other car makers, including Toyota and Nissan, have issued recalls over Takata.

Japan’s third largest car company also issued a profit warning in January, trimming its annual net profit forecast by 5%. Last month, the automaker was also hit with a $70 million fine for failing to report all the accident-related information required under U.S. regulatory rules.

Honda names a non-director as CEO

The outgoing CEO and other executives took a pay cut in October following a fifth recall in a year of the re-engineered Fit hybrid subcompact. Honda also had to set aside hundreds of millions of dollars to cover mass recalls to replace air bag inflators made by Takata.

Interestingly, Takanobu conceded this month that the Fit quality glitches could have been caused at least in part by an aggressive sales target. For the past three years, the outgoing CEO has shaken up Honda’s decades-old, tightly knit supply chain, seeking to prune costs and find more cutting-edge technologies.

On Monday, Honda named Takahiro Hachigo, who joined Honda in 1982 and has worked across research and development, procurement and manufacturing, with stints in the U.S., Britain and China, as CEO. Hachigo’s appointment marks the first time Honda has named a CEO who is a non-director and someone who has not headed the firm’s R&D company. He will take over as president and chief executive in late June, after the group’s annual shareholders meeting.

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