Editor's note: This report has been corrected. The HR-V is the compact crossover that will be built in Honda's new plant in Mexico. Also, Fukuo's new responsibilities will not include large-vehicle development or advanced drivetrain projects as earlier reported.
TOKYO -- Honda Motor Co., after announcing a fifth recall of the redesigned Fit in just 12 months, has taken the unprecedented step of appointing a quality czar to clamp down on problems.
The company’s top executives will also receive pay cuts for three months to take responsibility for the recall-plagued car. The Fit was recalled Oct. 23 for a fifth time since its 2013 debut.
The latest recall does not cover Fits sold in the U.S.
The company also said it is reviewing quality processes worldwide, in a move that may delay product launches, including the introduction of the HR-V compact crossover to be built at Honda’s new plant in Mexico.
Honda President Takanobu Ito, who will take a 20 percent pay cut during the three-month period, appointed Koichi Fukuo as the company’s newly christened executive in charge of quality reform.
The changes come as Honda grapples with spiraling problems that have bruised its once sterling reputation for quality.
The latest recall of the redesigned Fit, mostly in Japan, have been compounded by millions of recalls of older vehicles to fix faulty airbags.
It piles additional troubles on the Fit hatchback, which had this year’s U.S. launch delayed by a slow startup of production at Honda’s new assembly plant in Celaya, Mexico.
Mexican production of the HR-V has also been pushed back. Honda won’t launch that vehicle until quality can be assured, Honda spokeswoman Yuka Abe said.
“We are doing very strict check of quality worldwide, and that is why we are taking time to launch models,” she said. “At each plant worldwide, we will do more detailed checks.”
The HR-V is now scheduled to be launched this winter and, she said, Honda has not announced whether that constitutes a delay. Suppliers say the launch had been planned for this year.
She said, “The HR-V launches this winter, and before it is launched, we want to do strict quality checks.”
Fukuo will also become vice president of Honda R&D Co., the automaker’s semi-independent development arm. That post has been vacant since April. The changes take effect Nov. 1.
“There will be an executive assigned to a position to supervise the entire process, from r&d to market launch,” Honda said in a statement. “This experienced executive will inject his knowledge in a cross-functional manner and thoroughly evaluate technologies at the timing of each evaluation opportunity.”
Fukuo has until now been overseeing large-vehicle development, including the Acura division, and advanced drivetrain projects such as hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Those responsibilities will be taken over by another executive, Yosuke Sekino, Honda said. Sekino's current title was not immediately available.