TOKYO -- After less than a month on the job, Honda Motor Co. CEO Takahiro Hachigo has outlined his vision for a "new Honda." Much of the plan echoes the mantra of a now-flourishing rival.
Hachigo, 56, a veteran r&d engineer who took office June 17, aims to prioritize innovative cars, abandon aggressive growth targets and maximize existing production capacity before adding more.
If the formula sounds familiar, it should. Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda steered his company on a similar course after its financial stumble during the Great Recession and its 2010 unintended acceleration crisis.
In some ways, Honda is recovering from a similar bind.
Former CEO Takanobu Ito handed control to Hachigo as the company was just regaining its footing after several body blows.
The Japanese company's reputation, long envied as cutting-edge cool, had slumped into ho-hum territory, with critics saying some recent products fail to stand out in the mass-market crowd.
The carmaker was then broadsided by the global recall of millions of vehicles to replace faulty Takata airbags that have now been linked to eight deaths. And a series of embarrassing recalls of the redesigned Honda Fit small car in Japan forced Ito to delay several product launches and overhaul r&d strategy.
Meanwhile, Ito expanded worldwide capacity to chase his goal of 6 million sales globally in the fiscal year that ends March 31, 2017 -- even as demand failed to keep pace. Honda sold just 4.4 million vehicles in the fiscal year that ended March 31.
Speaking last week at his first news conference since taking office, Hachigo set two main strategies for fixing the company:
1. Better integrate Honda's six global operating centers.
2. Regain focus on innovative and exciting vehicles.
"I plan to create a new Honda," Hachigo said.
"Rather than focusing on numbers, it is important to come up with products that carry dreams and satisfy our customers," he said. "We will focus on the development of innovative products."
Last month, Honda restated its earnings to notch a 19 percent drop in operating profit for the fiscal year that ended March 31. Honda took the hit after booking larger-than-expected costs to handle expanding recalls of Takata airbags.