Toshihiro Mibe, a research and development expert set to become president of Japanese car giant Honda, has promised to steer the company towards new growth by focusing on ecological models and safety technology.
Honda said Mr Mibe replaces Takahiro Hachigo effective from April 1, and subject to shareholders’ approval at a meeting in June.
Mr Mibe told reporters: “I am going to build a house that is the future of Honda on the foundation of businesses that Mr Hachigo has worked so hard to create. And this building must have resilience, to withstand this once-in-a-hundred-years transformation.”
The incoming president stressed the car maker will be aggressive about developing and selling electric vehicles.
— Honda (@Honda) February 16, 2021
Mr Mibe, who joined Honda in 1987, had been widely expected to take the top post, according to Japanese media. He was instrumental in further forging Honda’s partnership with US car giant General Motors.
GM and Honda have had a relationship for two decades, centred around collaborating on fuel cells, batteries and autonomous driving.
The relationship was expanded to a memorandum of understanding last year on setting up a North American alliance, including working tougher in purchasing and research, as well as sharing platforms, the basic parts on which vehicles are built.
Mr Hachigo said Mr Mibe was a good person to lead Honda because of his experience in ecological vehicles.
Mr Mibe will continue with the company’s belief that “the purpose of technology is to help people”, such as reducing carbon emissions and eliminating deaths from traffic accidents, according to Honda.
Tokyo-based Honda has said it is striving for the realization of carbon neutrality by 2050. Carbon neutrality refers to net zero carbon dioxide emissions, which will help curtail pollution and global warming.
Along with appointing a new president, Honda said it will also strengthen corporate governance by changing the company structure to that of three committees, overseeing nominating, audit and compensation.
The change will better separate the executive and supervisory functions, according to Honda, which makes the Accord sedan, Mirai fuel cell car and Asimo robot.
Mr Hachigo, who has led the company since 2015, said he had kept Honda growing amid an industry undergoing transformation, such as the shift to electric vehicles and away from the petrol engine.
He will retire after Mr Mibe formally takes over.
Mr Hachigo noted that Honda’s production capacity nearly doubled in the last five years in China, now the world’s largest car market.
All the world’s car makers have been slammed by the coronavirus pandemic, but Honda has held up relatively well.
Honda recently reported growth in fiscal third quarter profit and raised its annual profit forecast to 465 billion yen (£3.16 billion), up from the previous projection for a 390 billion yen (£2.6 billion) profit.
The latest forecast is also better than the 456 billion yen (£3.09 billion) profit Honda earned the previous fiscal year, although the firm warned the outlook remains uncertain because the impact over Covid-19 is still unclear.