Honda's Toshihiro Mibe

Toshihiro Mibe, Honda’s new CEO, previously head the company’s research and development operations.

Despite saying it wouldn’t happen just 24 hours ago, it happened: Honda Motor Co. named Toshihiro Mibe, head of its research and development operations, as its new CEO starting April 1.

Mibe, who’s been with the company for more than three decades, takes over for Takahiro Hachigo, who joined the automaker in June 2015. Hachigo told the media that he “made a decision to hand over the baton of the presidency” to Mibe to get some “fresh” perspectives into the company.

Observers speculated for weeks that change was in the air at the automaker, especially since Hachigo pushed for a focus on the development of electric vehicles and achieving carbon neutrality. He also worked to solidify the existing business in order to stabilize and strengthen the company overall.

Change is hard

Hachigo noted some of the initiatives he pushed for required some tough decisions. “… we carried out fundamental reforms without being bound by conventional ways of doing things.

Takahiro Hachigo said he was passing “the baton” on to Mibe to keep fresh ideas coming to the company.

“This included the optimization of our product development system and production capacity, which resulted in making some major decisions for Honda such as discontinuation of production at our plants in Sayama (Japan) and in Europe.”

During his tenure, the company enjoyed strong growth in China, the world’s largest automotive market. The company’s production levels in China doubled during his nearly six-year tenure atop the company. He said the company was now going to “begin harvesting the fruit” of the tough decisions made to improve and streamline operations.

Things will carry on

Speculation about Mibe’s ascension centered on several areas, but one that came to light is that he took the traditional path to the CEO’s chair. Working in a variety of areas of the company, including a stop to lead its research and development efforts, often considered a precursor to the top spot.

Mibe and Hachigo worked together on many of the changes implemented during his tenure. It appears that he’s going to continue much of what his predecessor started.

Honda COO Seiji Kuraishi will help with the transition.

“I would like to lead ‘new Honda’ by demonstrating my own strengths to the fullest extent,” he said. “In particular, I will further accelerate our “preparation for future growth” and start putting our plans into action.

“In other words, I am now going to construct a ‘building,’ which is the future of Honda, on the foundation of existing businesses that Mr. Hachigo solidified. And this building must have a resilience that can withstand this period of this ‘once in a hundred years’ transformation.”

Hachigo will move to a director’s position on the company’s board.

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