Exclusive: Honda grandees chide CEO over quality, recalls

Wed Nov 12, 2014 4:24am EST
 
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By Norihiko Shirouzu and Maki Shiraki

BEIJING/TOKYO (Reuters) - Two former Honda Motor chiefs have called on CEO Takanobu Ito this year, urging him to focus more on quality issues, increasing the pressure he's already under from U.S. regulators and politicians over mass air bag recalls.

Nobuhiko Kawamoto and Hiroyuki Yoshino made separate visits to Ito at the Japanese car maker's Tokyo headquarters, three people familiar with the visits said. They said the former CEOs had a firm message for Ito, 61, urging him to act quickly on quality issues that risk damaging the Honda brand.

Honda has recalled some 9.5 million cars of various models since 2008 for potentially defective air bag inflators made by Takata Corp. It has also had five recalls of the electric-gasoline hybrid versions of its Fit subcompact car and Vezel crossover utility vehicle since their launch just last year, and five recalls on its Super Cub utility motorbike since 2011.

"We don't know how, but Honda is fraying around the edges," said one of the knowledgeable individuals, who was on Honda's management board in the 1980s and was briefed on the visits by Yoshino and Kawamoto. The people didn't want to be named as the meetings they described were private.

"All of us think there's something more fundamentally wrong with the company," he said, referring to a group of concerned Honda former senior executives. "But all the company's doing is to get through recalls one by one instead of comprehensively reviewing operations."

NO PRESSURE TO QUIT

Kawamoto, 78, who was Honda CEO from 1990-98, visited Ito last month and had "stern words", one of the knowledgeable individuals said, about the sharp rise in recent recalls.   Continued...

 
A woman using her mobile phone walks past a logo of Honda Motor Co outside the company's dealership in Tokyo October 28, 2014. REUTERS/Yuya Shino