- Title: JAPAN: Honda names Senior Managing Director Takanobu Ito as next CEO
- Date: 24th February 2009
- Summary: TOKYO, JAPAN (FILE) (REUTERS) HONDA SHOWROOM HONDA'S "INSIGHT" ON DISPLAY HONDA CARS ON DISPLAY HONDA'S ASSIMO TALKING ON STAGE ASSIMO WALKING
- Embargoed: 11th March 2009 12:00
- Location: Japan
- Country: Japan
- Topics: Industry
- Reuters ID: LVA2BS3IORC9L2TX3TB2Y08GME7H
- Story Text: Honda names current Senior Managing Director Takanobu Ito as the company's next CEO, amid global turmoil in the auto industry.
Honda Motor Co. said on Monday (February 23) Chief Executive Officer Takeo Fukui would step down in June, to be replaced by Senior Managing Director Takanobu Ito in a widely expected move amid a global crisis in the auto industry.
"Honda needs to work as one with a young and new leader in order to sustain our business especially under difficult times like this so I have asked Ito to take over my position," said Fukui at a news conference held at Honda's headquarters in Tokyo.
Sixty-four year old Fukui will complete six years at the helm and become an executive adviser to Japan's No.2 automaker as it, along with the rest of the industry, faces a frozen credit market that has sent sales skidding.
Honda's shares extended losses after the news, trading down 4.5 percent at 2,145 yen.
Fifty-five year old Ito is currently in charge of automobile operations, having followed a career track that many saw as leading to the top post. Like Fukui, he previously headed Honda R&D Co., the carmaker's research arm.
Ito will in April head Honda R&D and take over the CEO's job in June, holding both positions.
"Ito will handle two positions at the same time because what we need is a small and solid team of managers in order to decide quickly and swiftly," said Fukui.
"That is the key to getting through the most difficult times, which are expected to last for another year or two."
Among other achievements, Ito, an easy-going and outspoken engineer, is credited for developing the world's first mass-produced all-aluminium-body car, the NSX sports car, which went on sale in 1990. He joined the company in 1978.
"Making quick and flexible decisions is most required at times like this. I will do my very best to achieve these goals," said Ito.
Fukui, a motor racing fan who announced in December his firm would pull out of Formula One racing, steps down at a critical time for Honda.
At the news conference, Fukui said the company currently sees no serious buyer for its Formula One team, a sign that Japan's second-largest automaker may have trouble selling off the team.
"There are various offers for the team but we have not seen any serious buyer yet," said Fukui. "We find the sale process difficult."
The Japanese automaker has struggled to raise sponsorship for its under-performing team, spending an estimated $300 million of its own money but finishing ninth overall last season.
Honda Formula One team bosses turned down an offer from Bernie Ecclestone to help with a planned management buy-out, the sport's commercial supremo was quoted as saying on Sunday (February 22).
Automakers everywhere are grappling with plunging sales and Honda will be fighting an uphill battle against losses in the new business year from April, as a strong Japanese yen adds to the pain when profits are repatriated.
The Japanese currency traded around 93 per dollar on Monday, not far from a 13-year high near 87 per dollar hit in January.
But thanks to its more cautious and measured business approach, Honda is still expecting to stay in the black for the year to March 31, unlike rivals Toyota Motor Corp and Nissan Motor Co.
With sales crumbling in the main markets of the United States, Europe and Japan, Fukui reluctantly pulled out of Formula One racing to channel the funds instead to the development of a new generation of cars.
He also resisted building a car factory in Russia last year, when most rivals took the plunge as sales there soared. Car sales in Russia have since reversed, falling by double-digits in the past few months.
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