Business / Corporate

New Honda chief vows more innovation to deal with recall setbacks

Kyodo

New Honda Motor Co. President Takahiro Hachigo said Monday he would roll out innovative and challenging products for global markets as he officially took the helm of the embattled automaker, which is mired in a safety crisis caused by its air bag supplier.

“First, we need to produce products that are unique to Honda in order to build our Honda brand. That is where I place my priority,” Hachigo said at his first news conference since being appointed to the post on June 17.

Hachigo also offered an apology and said Honda would prioritize safety after a series of recalls in Japan, the U.S., and other markets involving its popular Fit compact, and vehicles equipped with potentially deadly air bag inflators produced by Takata Corp. that have been suspected in at least eight fatalities and 100 injuries.

The new chief, however, refrained from revealing a specific sales target.

Faced with the safety concerns and sluggish sales, Honda in June cut its projected group net profit to ¥493.01 billion for the fiscal year ended March 31, from the previously reported ¥522.76 billion. This, the firm said, was due to the additional cost of replacing the Takata-made inflators, and represents its first drop in three years.

While Hachigo did not rule out the possibility of future tie-ups with other companies, he said his basic stance is to utilize Honda’s own technology.

“We’ve seen technology more diversified, so I wouldn’t say we will never do it if it benefits Honda and our customers,” he said. “We will make a judgment while considering the advantages.”

Honda has reorganized its global production under the leadership of the previous president, Takanobu Ito, and is now focused on six regions — North America, Europe, China, South America, Japan and other Asian countries.

After overseeing operations in the United States, Europe, and China, Hachigo said he was determined to raise the efficiency of its worldwide manufacturing operations by having each region better complement the others.