TOKYO - Yoshihide Munekuni will take up the long-vacant post of chairman at Honda Motor Co., effective June 27.
His promotion puts Munekuni, chairman of American Honda Motor Co., in charge of certain external relations duties, such as representing Honda at the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.
However, it effectively removes him from the running to replace Honda President Nobuhiko Kawamoto. Kawamoto, who has stayed on past the traditional time for Honda presidents to retire, has not indicated when he plans to step down.
No one has held the chairman's title at Honda since June 1993.
The three leading candidates to succeed Kawamoto now are Hiroyuki Yoshino and Koichi Amemiya, both of whom have U.S. experience, and Hiroyuki Shimojima.
Yoshino, an executive vice president, is head of Honda R&D Co., the traditional stepping stone to the president's job. He was president of Honda of America Manufacturing Inc. in Marysville, Ohio, from 1988-92.
Amemiya, who will be promoted to executive vice president from senior managing director in June, is COO for the Americas.
Shimojima, a senior managing director and COO for automobile operations, is a past president of Honda R&D but has never headed a North American unit.
In other changes, Honda for the first time named to the board a Latin-America-based executive: Koichi Kondo, president of Honda Motor do Brasil Ltda.
Of Honda's 32 board members after the promotions, nine will be living outside Japan.