Word out of Japan is that Honda Motor Co. will name a new chief executive officer as early as this week, despite official denials from the automaker.
Toshihiro Mibe, head of its research and development arm, is now expected to take over from Takahiro Hachigo, who has been with Honda for six years.
Honda’s executive vice president and chief operating officer Seiji Kuraishi will stay on to support Mibe, according to reports from Japan. If the reports prove accurate, Mibe takes over Honda at a time of great upheaval in the industry.
Plenty of change in auto industry
Ford replaced its top executive last fall, naming Jim Farley its CEO, and two of the industry’s stalwarts, PSA and Fiat Chrysler, with histories stretching back more than a century merged last month.
Meanwhile, the industry has been moving quickly with companies such as the General Motors and Jaguar Land Rover announcing plans to end production of internal combustion engines by the middle of the next decade.
Honda is still struggling to assemble its own response to the rapid changes in automotive technology.
Partnering up with GM
It has entered into an alliance with GM by investing in Cruise, the San Francisco autonomous vehicle company that is at the heart of GM’s autonomous vehicle initiatives. Honda also invested with GM in fuel-cell technology.
Recent reports also suggest that the Japanese automaker is preparing to let GM build electric vehicles for sales under the Honda or Acura brand. Neither Honda nor GM confirmed the reports.
Mibe following path to the top
Honda’s official denials aside, the 59-year-old Mibe is on the traditional path to leadership of the Japanese automaker – heading up its research and development team. Prior to Hachigo’s 2015 appointment to the job, CEOs spent time in that role before taking the top job.
Mibe, who’s been with the automaker for more than three decades, has spent time in a variety of roles, including a stint as Chief Operating Officer in 2014. In addition to heading up R&D, he oversees the company’s intellectual property and standardization unit.
The pair pushed for changes within the research unit to expand the automaker’s electrification efforts. Hachigo’s involvement isn’t a surprise as he’s driven changes to streamline vehicle development and lower production costs.
Earlier this month, Honda offered guidance, indicating a full-year operating profit forecast 23% $4.91 billion as it reduced costs while demand in China and elsewhere gained momentum.