Honda Motor Co. is elevating a foreigner to the highest level yet at the Japanese company -- one rung below the board. It also has named its first woman to the board.
It's a major step toward diversity at the traditionally Japan-centric company, with a couple of asterisks:
* The foreigner, newly appointed Operating Officer Issao Mizoguchi, 54, is an ethnic Japanese, the son of a father who emigrated to Brazil and a second-generation Japanese-Brazilian mother.
* If approved in June, Hideko Kunii, 66, will be an outside director, a position mandated by Japanese law. She is a software specialist who spent most of her career at Ricoh Co. and now is a university professor.
The promotions represent an opening of Honda's executive suite to more international thinking.
Mizoguchi, who assumes his new job April 1, joined the company's Brazilian operations in 1985 and has worked in the region ever since. He now is senior vice president of Honda South America Ltda. and president of Moto Honda da Amazonia Ltda., the company's local motorcycle and power products unit.
In his new job he will oversee all South American operations.