Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo announced this week in Tokyo that he intends to make sweeping changes to the way the company creates its cars, in an effort to make them feel less like they were “designed by committee.”
Hachigo’s plan would reverse many of the policies put in place by his predecessor Takanori Ito — who resigned last year amidst the Takata airbag fiasco — over his seven-year reign. First and foremost, Hachigo will allow engineers to once again exert greater influence throughout a product’s planning phases, while sales and marketing folks take a back seat.
“Over the years, our product development process became overly complex and slow, involving a huge number of engineers and sales and marketing people,” an unnamed senior executive told Reuters, “We began producing watered down, uninspiring, what you might call designed-by-committee, cars.”
Senior engineers, who were moved to the company’s Tokyo headquarters in order to work more closely with sales and marketing, will now move back to the R&D center in Tochigi and be given more autonomy.
Hachigo, who comes from an engineering background himself, also wants to limit the independence that Honda’s various regional offices have. Localization has led to too many market-specific differences and models, he believes, and will concentrate R&D back the Tochigi tech center.
It has been the view of many Honda customers, especially long-time enthusiasts, which the automaker had veered away from its founding principles of engaging, driver-centric cars as established by Soichiro Honda. It could take years before Hachigo’s moves set the ship back on course, but it’s looks like a step in the right direction.