If that title isn’t click bait-y enough…
Well, Yesterday Honda new CEO Takahiro Hachigo held a press conference and basically threw a lot of thing upside down inside out left to right and back and forth.
You can read Hachigo-san summary here, but here’s what I think.
Hachigo-san took a butcher knife and hack the hell out of Honda management and decision making process.
Buried under all that rose colored wordings, is the management change that Honda sorely needed or not… I don’t know… It’s all very confusing. Under Takanobu Ito leadership from 2009 to 2015, Honda for lack of better term is going through a peculiar time. During Ito-san leadership we saw Honda great three hybrid solution and the first ever mass produced turbo engine for almost than 3 decades on the Civic and JDM StepWGN. We also see the development of NSX and plenty of interesting cars such as ILX and TLX coming equipped with 8 speed dual clutch transmission and 9 speed auto that puts it finally with the “numbers aficionado” that is premium car buyers. We also see the record breaking Mobilio introduced in Indonesia that boost Honda sales beyond whatever they can imagine.
Yet, for every new interesting products Honda made for that time period under Ito-san, there’s always a hitch here and there. The Fit hybrid, employing the new hybrid system had a back and forth recall. The JDM StepWGN turbo engine is acceptable but not as revolutionary as expected, almost as if the usage of turbo is unnecessary for the car. Honda new (actually outsourced) 9 speed auto has a slight hiccup here and there. The Civic had its new 2.0L engine recalled, not even after 3 months of its introduction. There’s also airbag recall, but that’s third party event, out of reach from Honda.
Hachigo-san statement especially this one worries me… or not…
We will establish a structure where development teams at the spot can concentrate on creating automobiles and focus on the development of one whole vehicle as one product under a consistent concept. To be more precise, we will add some new positions, including new positions in charge of the area of product development, a new position in charge of conducting evaluations from the standpoint of the entire vehicle consistently for all models and new positions in charge of supervising design creation of Honda and Acura models, respectively, on a global basis. Through these changes, we will realize a development structure that can further highlight the unique characteristics of Honda.
This means that product development is going to be centralized. Is this good or bad? As I have concern for Acura in particular about this development.
Acura supposed to be the premium of Honda, but for the longest time, near premium is the only title Acura can be proud of. All of Acura products are basically premium version of the Honda cars it’s based on. ILX = Civic, TLX = Accord, RDX = CR-V, MDX = Pilot. Aside from RLX and Legend which is just basically badge engineered of the two and the NSX, all are just souped up Honda.
In 2014, Acura got a “task force” led by Erik Berkman, Honda America executive vice president, tasked to set up the planning for Acura product for the future. So with Hachigo-san shakedown, what happened with the task force?
In 2008 Honda finally gave in into the premium market market push and actually going to gun for the flagship premium at the likes of BMW and Mercedes. A spy shot was captured showing an Acura TSX with long wheel base and long dash to axle ratio indicating rear wheel drive. This push was part of two previous Honda CEO, Takeo Fukui project.
It seems that for every Honda CEO change there’s always a funky change be it organizational structure or management change. Hachigo-san push for a centralized design hopefully ends up sticking for the foreseeable future, and for every change of CEO doesn’t mean a constant change of strategy. Just make sure that future product planning is done carefully and with prudence.
It’s okay for Honda to take time to roll out new technology, fans will wait. Once somebody has been touched by a Honda product, they will always comes back.