New Honda CEO: back to basics in drive for ‘innovation’ not number chasing

Published: 08 July 2015

► New Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo speaks
► First news conference spells out vision
► More innovation, less number chasing

The newly appointed chief executive of Honda, Takahiro Hachigo, has spoken for the first time of his vision for the embattled car maker: innovation and exciting, desirable cars are in, chasing volume sales is out.

In the first news conference since his appointment in June 2015, Hachigo this week vowed to ditch the goal of hitting 6 million sales a year by 2017. He told reporters: ‘I plan to create a new Honda. Rather than focusing on numbers, it is important to come up with products that carry dreams and satisfy our customers… We will focus on the development of innovative products.’

His predecessor, Takanobu Ito, had struggled to get Honda on track, with slumping sales in key markets, recall problems with Takata airbags, a wobbly global economy and the 2011 Japanese earthquake all hitting profits hard. Honda reported a 19% slump in operating profit in the year ending March 2015.

Click here to read Ito's vision for Honda, articulated in 2009.

Takahiro Hachigo: the background

The 56-year-old new chief is a Honda lifer who has worked in China, Europe and North America since 1982. Encouragingly, he is an engineer who is said to understand the importance of getting product right. 

Hachigo has said he’s open to discussing more external partnerships and collaborations; Honda has always remained fiercely independent, but as BMW and others have discovered, the cost of developing cutting edge tech increasingly must be shared. And he admitted the company has ‘excessive production capacity’ - which he aims to sort out by refocusing factory output. The Civic will now be exported globally from the Swindon, UK plant, for instance.

Ito, who had much less extensive international experience, stepped down as CEO but remains as an advisor to the Honda board. Ito’s reign wasn’t totally without merit: remember the current burst of innovative products such as new Civic Type R (below), NSX and HR-V crossover were sired on his watch.

Honda Civic Type R: showing how Honda can stand out from the hot hatch crowd

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet