Honda, lagging rivals, considers opening board to foreigners

Fri Feb 21, 2014 11:39pm EST
 
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By Maki Shiraki and Yoko Kubota

TOKYO (Reuters) - Honda Motor Co (7267.T: Quote) is considering diversifying its all-Japanese, all-male board by appointing a foreigner and could move as early as Monday, when it unveils its next slate of directors, sources close to the company said.

"I think we have to think quite seriously, and we are thinking very, very seriously," Honda Executive Vice President Tetsuo Iwamura told Reuters when asked about naming a non-Japanese to the board. He was speaking on the sidelines of a plant opening in Celaya, Mexico, on Friday.

Japan's third-biggest carmaker, long considered a pioneer of Japanese globalization with the likes of Sony Corp (6758.T: Quote), now lags far behind Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T: Quote) and Nissan Motor Co (7201.T: Quote) in building diversity in its executive ranks.

Japan's big companies are under pressure to bring in outsiders to bolster governance, risk management and global perspective, having traditionally chosen board members from senior male managers who had spent their careers at the company.

Honda started assembling cars in the United States in 1982 - a Japanese first - and now makes and sells about 80 percent of its vehicles overseas.

It has nevertheless resisted bringing foreigners into the upper echelons of its Tokyo headquarters, sources close to the company said, believing its largely autonomous regional operations, that include locally hired managers, have made it global enough.

That attitude now appears to be changing as it seeks faster growth and puts more emphasis on emerging markets.

The automaker recently consulted a major Japanese bank about diversifying its management board, an individual with knowledge of the matter said.   Continued...

 
Tetsuo Iwamura, president and CEO of American Honda Motor Co. introduces the Honda FCEV Concept car during the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles, California November 20, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson