Honda CEO Hachigo to step down, be replaced by R&D chief Mibe

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TOKYO — Honda said CEO Takahiro Hachigo will step down and will be succeeded by Toshihiro Mibe, the head of the automaker’s research and development arm, on April 1.

Hachigo will remain on the board, Honda said in a statement on Friday.

Mibe, 59, joined Honda in 1987, with stints in engine development and the drivetrain business. He became the president of Honda’s R&D unit in 2019, working with Hachigo to push through structural reforms.

Mibe’s appointment comes as Honda races to catch up in the field of all-electric cars and faces competition from new entrants and tech giants such as Tesla, Apple and Amazon.

Traditionally known for its fuel-efficient internal-combustion engines, Honda launched the Honda e, its first mass-produced all-battery vehicle, last August. It has said it wants new-energy vehicles such as plug-in hybrids and fuel-cell cars to make up two-thirds of its sales by 2030.

During his six years as CEO, Hachigo sought to simplify the vehicle development process by combining some operations for cars and motorcycles. He also slashed costs by streamlining Honda’s model lineup and consolidating factories at home and overseas.

Hachigo also expanded a partnership with General Motors to include cooperation in developing electric and autonomous vehicles.

To focus on zero-emissions technology, Honda last year said it would stop participating as an engine supplier in the FIA Formula One World Championship at the end of the 2021 season.

Open to alliances

Mibe said he wanted to use external alliances to speed up the automaker’s growth.

“We would consider using external insight or potential alliances among other actions to make decisions without hesitation,” Mibe told a news conference at which he called for Honda’s “major transformation at great speed.”

Honda in the past has sought to do everything internally, but as the company faces once-in-an-era changes, “time is of the essence and I would opt to use alliances and external insight to accelerate our shift,” he said.

Hachigo told the conference that Mibe has been looking into the future direction that Honda should be taking. He attributed Mibe’s expertise in environmental technology and energy and his attentiveness to changes as reasons for his promotion to CEO.