A “surprise move” it was not: Tokyo was rife with rumors about the impeding ouster of Honda CEO Takanobu Ito in the latter part of last week, but the rumors were doggedly denied. Today, Monday, a flash invitation requested the Tokyo press corps to make an appearance at 5pm, and everybody knew what was coming. Ito fell into a sword made by Takata, and he was replaced by a chubby, but otherwise faceless functionary.
Ito and the rest of Honda’s top management took a pay cut last year to atone for a long series of recalls prompted by exploding Takata air bag inflators. It wasn’t enough of a sacrifice, and today, Ito’s head was served on a platter.
Ito is replaced by Takahiro Hachigo, like Ito an engineer by profession. Ito made supercars, Hachigo made no waves. After joining Honda in 1982, he served in all corners of the company’s empire. Hachigo was in charge of the first-generation U.S.-built Odyssey minivan, and he led the development of the 2nd gen CR-V SUV. He had senior roles at Honda Americas, in Europe and in China, where he led Honda’s R&D.
Hachigo’s election appears to have been an attempt to stay clear of anyone who may have been remotely associated with the Takata troubles. Ito will remain a member of Honda’s board and will cool off in an advisory role.