LOS ANGELES -- American Honda is under pressure from top brass in Tokyo to repeat the run of success it enjoyed when sales boss Dick Colliver and product chief Tom Elliott operated as a dynamic executive duo from 1993 to 2004.
Colliver and Elliott managed a delicate balancing act -- two operating heads working under a Japanese CEO who also was based at the company's Torrance, Calif., headquarters. But the system worked, and Honda's U.S. leaders are trying it again as they attempt to achieve sales goals set by their bosses in Japan.
In March, chief marketing officer Mike Accavitti was put in charge of automobile operations, adding responsibility for several key departments, including product planning. The pairing of Accavitti with John Mendel, executive vice president of sales, mirrors the successful structure Honda used in the Colliver-Elliott era.
Accavitti, 54, is a Dodge transplant who joined the company as the top marketer two years ago. He is a senior vice president under Mendel, 58, an executive vice president.
Accavitti has key new duties, but the sales goals are the direct responsibility of Mendel, who is finishing his eighth year at American Honda and his fourth as its top sales executive.
Honda's U.S. momentum was soured by three factors: the global recession; the 2011 Japanese earthquake that crippled Honda's manufacturing base and r&d centers; and the Thai floods that further damaged Honda's suppliers.
"Honda had been so miraculously successful for so long," Mendel said. "What we learned [in the crisis] from what was thrown at us, our leadership evolved at all levels and stood up."