Honda Motor Co. is expanding the role of North America COO Tetsuo Iwamura -- making him the automaker's second-highest global executive and marking the first time such a position has been based in the United States.
Iwamura, 60, president of American Honda Motor Co., will be promoted to executive vice president and executive officer of the Japanese parent company, from his current position as a senior managing officer, effective April 1.
He also will be appointed to the board as a director of Honda Motor, pending approval at the company's annual shareholder meeting in June.
American Honda also named Erik Berkman head of Honda R&D Americas, also from April 1, with responsibility for design and product development. He is the first non-Japanese executive to hold the post.
The management changes underscore the growing importance of North America to Honda as the automaker faces stiffer competition from Japanese, Korean and U.S. rivals.
North America is Honda's largest market in terms of automobile unit sales and accounts for the largest share of the automaker's global revenues. The move also comes as Honda is boosting output and adding plants in North America to counter the strong yen.
Honda is planning an $800 million plant in Mexico to build subcompact vehicles and will produce the Acura NSX at a new assembly operation in Ohio by 2014.
The move is part of a series of executive changes designed to bolster Honda's North American operations, speed decision-making and increase efficiency, the automaker said.
Iwamura joined American Honda in April 2007 as president and CEO after a stint as COO of Honda's South American regional operations.
Berkman is vice president of corporate planning and logistics for American Honda's automobile operations and president of Honda Performance Development Inc., Honda's racing company in North America.
He will succeed Hiroshi Takemura, who will return to Japan as deputy director of automobile operations.