After days of rumours and reports, Honda has confirmed current CEO Takahiro Hachigo will step down in favour of Toshihiro Mibe, who currently heads up the automaker’s research and development department.
The transition will take place over a number of months. On April 1 Mibe will take charge, succeeding Hachigo as president and representative director, with the former CEO staying on as a director
At the company’s ordinary general meeting, to be held some time in June, shareholders will be asked to appoint Mibe as director, president and Representative Executive Officer. Hachigo will then retire from the automaker.
Mibe joined Honda in 1987 and has worked primarily within research and development with a focus on powertrains.
He became head of the R&D department in 2019, and in concert with the current CEO has placed more emphasis on hybrid and electric drivetrain development.
During a press conference to announce the transition, Mibe said “Honda must undergo a major change and act with speed” if it is to “exist in the midst of turbulent times”.
The new CEO is more than happy to consider “external expertise and explore possible alliances”.
Under the leadership outgoing CEO Hachigo, Honda has deepened its ties with GM.
Initially the two automakers only collaborated on hydrogen fuel cell technology. In 2020 Honda agreed to base two vehicles on GM’s upcoming all-electric architecture, using the General’s Ultium battery technology and having the vehicles produced at GM factories.
The two firms are also investigating whether to share other architectures and drivetrains.
Honda has also purchased a significant stake in Cruise, the GM division working on autonomous vehicle technology and aiming to roll out self-driving taxis in California.
Takahiro Hachigo was appointed CEO in 2015. In the press conference announcing his successor, Hachigo said he has put the company on solid footing to tackle future challenges, and “made a decision to hand over the baton of presidency to Mr. Mibe at this timing because I want everyone at Honda to take on new challenges with a fresh mind so that ‘new Honda’ can take off toward the new era under new leadership”
According to Hachigo his key achievements include “optimisation of our product development system”, and adjusting the company’s production footprint by closing factories in Japan (Sayama), the UK (Swindon) and Turkey, while doubling capacity in China.
He is also proud of committing the automaker to “carbon neutrality and zero traffic collision fatalities by 2050”.
Hachigo started at Honda in 1982 and during his early years he was involved in research and development (R&D), and chassis design.
He was in the charge of the 1999 Honda Odyssey for the North American market, which went a size up from the original and boasted a 3.5-litre V6 in order to properly battle Chrysler’s range of people movers.
His other major credit was leading the development of the second-generation CR-V.
From there he moved onto more managerial positions, including global head of R&D and purchasing, running the company’s Suzuka factory, and managing director of Honda’s Europe and China arms.
In an interview with Automotive News, Hachigo stated “EVs will not be mainstream”.
Although it is launching the retro E in Japan and Europe, and a number of electric cars in China and the US, Honda is right now using hybrid technology to meet its CO2 targets.
Hachigo also went on the record saying other automakers may be too optimistic about autonomous vehicle technology. Instead of diving into a moonshot project to produce a fully self-driving car, the outgoing CEO preferred to be “cautious” by offering incremental and affordable improvements to customers.