Honda Motor Co. is launching several organizational and management changes in the U.S. and Japan -- many of them intended to bolster its operations in North America as the region assumes a larger role in shaping Honda's global business.
The automaker said today it has appointed its CFO the automaker's next chairman and is putting the head of its North American business, Tetsuo Iwamura, in charge of automotive operations.
Iwamura, who sits on the board, will keep his current role as executive vice president and president of Honda North America Inc. As COO of automobiles, Iwamura adds a role currently filled by multi-tasking President and CEO Takanobu Ito, 59.
The new chairman will be Fumihiko Ike, 60, currently the automaker's CFO. The position of chairman has remained vacant since last year when then-Chairman Koichi Kondo retired.
Kohei Takeuchi will succeed Ike as CFO and join the board.
The changes, which take effect April 1, were announced earlier today in Japan as part of Honda's annual management shuffle.
New company formed
In a separate statement from its U.S. operations, Honda said it is forming a new company to handle information systems, human resources, accounting, finance and other functions across to multiple Honda companies in North America called Honda North America Services.
The new company will be based at Honda's campus in Marysville, Ohio. About 50 employees will transfer to the new company in Ohio from American Honda's headquarters in Torrance, Calif., after its official formation on April 1.
The new company will also "streamline coordination of Honda's r&d, manufacturing, purchasing and sales functions as they relate to the introduction of new products," Honda said in a statement.
The increased responsibilities for Iwamura, 61, solidify his status as a powerful No. 2 within the boardroom. Ito has held the top job at the company's auto division since 2011, but the post traditionally has been cleaved from the president's portfolio.
The head of automobiles manages all four-wheeled vehicle business, accounting for 78 percent of Honda's global revenue.
Ito stays on as president and CEO.
During the personnel reorganization in 2011, Iwamura was dropped from the board in a move that cut the number of directors to 12 from 20 and aimed to streamline decision making.
Iwamura was brought back to the board last year, in a move that gave North American greater influence at the Tokyo headquarters.
North America emphasis
Meanwhile, Honda has been concentrating greater global responsibility for manufacturing, product development, r&d and other functions in North America.
Honda began expanding production capacity at its plant in Marysville in November. Meanwhile, a new plant in Mexico is scheduled to begin assembly of the Honda Fit subcompact and other vehicles based on the same platform starting in 2014. Additional production capacity here is needed for Honda to achieve its annual goal of selling 2 million vehicles in North America in the next four years, compared to about 1.7 million today.
Honda also wants North American personnel to assume a larger role in product development. For example, Honda executives have said that North American personnel will likely take over development responsibility for the next-generation Accord sedan.
A Honda spokesman declined to say whether the changes announced today meant the next Accord would be developed here.
American Honda this year hopes to surpass its combined Honda and Acura U.S. sales record of 1.55 million set in 2007. The automaker sold 1.42 million vehicles in the U.S. market last year, up from 1.15 million in 2011.
Honda today also announced several other promotions of longtime Honda executives effective April 1:
Hidenobu Iwata, president of Honda of America Manufacturing and senior managing officer of Honda Motor Co., will take on the additional role of president of the newly-formed Honda North America Services.
Bob Nelson will become president of Honda Manufacturing of Indiana, where he is currently a senior vice president. He has been with Honda for 25 years.
Jon Minto was promoted to president of Honda Engineering North America from senior vice president after more than 20 years with Honda.
Dan Smith, a 28-year Honda veteran, will become president of Honda of Canada Manufacturing in Alliston, Ontario, where he is a senior vice president.
Jerry Chenkin was named president of Honda Canada, where he is currently executive vice president. Chenkin is a 38-year veteran of Honda.
"These organizational changes will improve the speed of decision-making and the efficiency of our business operations," Iwamura said in a statement.
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