Honda replaces CEO amid Takata airbag recall fiasco and slowing sales

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Takanobu Ito

Takanobu Ito

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Supplier firm Takata’s ongoing airbag recall has affected a number of automakers but primarily its biggest customer, fellow Japanese firm Honda, which on Monday announced that its embroiled CEO Takanobu Ito will be replaced. News of the defective Takata airbags, which have inflators that can explode, first emerged in 2013 and since then around 14.5 million vehicles have been recalled, the majority of those being from Honda. At least six deaths and 64 injuries have been linked to the problem worldwide.

On top of the airbag recalls, it was revealed late last year that Honda failed to report to regulators in the U.S. some 1,729 death and injury claims between July 1, 2003 and June 30, 2014. Honda blames the failure to report all those incidents on computer errors and a bureaucracy bungle, and has since received a record $70 million fine.

The bad press has led Honda to lower its sales expectations for the coming year, with the automaker now expecting 4.45 million sales worldwide, down from a previous forecast of 4.6 million. In the U.S., Honda’s sales grew by just 1 percent last year and may even go negative this year.

Ito, who joined Honda in 1978 as an engineer, first took the reins at the automaker in 2009 amid the global financial crisis, and in 2011 he oversaw Japan’s earthquake and tsunami disaster as well as the floods in Thailand that affected a number of its key production facilities. His successor has been confirmed as fellow longtime Honda executive Takahiro Hachigo.

“I believe this is a good opportunity to revamp our entire operations,” Ito said at a media briefing at Honda’s Japan headquarters on Monday. “In 2015, Honda is ready to make a huge leap forward—to do this, I believe, Honda needs to overcome challenges under a new, younger leader as a team."

 
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