Q&A: Honda Appoints New President (page 3)

Feb 26, 2009
Kenichi Takata and Yutaka Chikaoka, Nikkei Monozukuri

Q: What was the main reason why you decided to replace your own position?

Fukui: Because it's very important to renew the generation of internal people, especially top management, to make a company last forever. I have served as president for six years as a result, but I do believe shifting the management generation every several years is really important for a company's perpetuity.

Q: What was your biggest joy while you were president? And what was the biggest decision you made during that time?

Fukui: What was impressive recently is the presentation of the (hybrid) "Insight." I have attended quite a few new car presentations over the last six years, but no other presentation drew as much interest from the media.

It might be something different from "joy," but the presentation was impressive anyway. I am reconfirming that it is important for us to aim to have such presentations every year as if releasing the second and third arrows, so things just don't end with the Insight.

I have made a variety of major decisions as well. Entering a new business such as the "HondaJet" (small jet plane) is also a major decision, but among those I made recently, I say the withdrawal from the Formula One was it.

Q: If you were to name one thing, what have you failed to accomplish as president?

Fukui: It's difficult because I have left so many things undone or unfinished. For example, although I have continuously tried to "make a Super Cub that goes beyond the Super Cub," I failed. But this might be a perpetual challenge.

Q: What do you aim to change as the new president?

Ito: I am not aiming at change just for change's sake. Honda has originally been sensitive to trends, being good at quickly returning its joy to its customers by taking speedy action. If I were to guess, I would say that the current Honda is slightly slow in that aspect, I suppose. That can probably be seen in technology development and in various connections within the organization as well.

At a time of such a drastic changes (in the economic environment), perpetuity can only be expected for companies that can take action ahead of such changes. In that sense, I hope I can develop Honda to a company that is sensitive and active at the same time.

Q: The state of the Japanese automobile market is very severe right now. Will you describe the image of an attractive car that you want to launch in the future?

Ito: I don't think the Japanese market is slightly stagnant because customers are not demanding cars. In my opinion, manufacturers that fail to provide cars that make customers "feel like buying" are quite responsible for the situation.

Regardless of whether it is possible or not, it's important to add new discoveries such as a car that achieves not twice but three times better fuel efficiency, for example, or a small vehicle that can carry 10 to 20 passengers, to the "fixed form" of current automobiles.

In that sense, the automobile industry might have thus far been on a slightly easy cycle, in which "normal cars" could sell, I guess. It is crucial to study what customers are seeking with sincerity again.

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