Multiple Fit recalls have been a problem for Honda in the last year with the hybrid problematic in Japan and even the Mexican one (photo) having an airbag fit issue

Multiple Fit recalls have been a problem for Honda in the last year with the hybrid problematic in Japan and even the Mexican one (photo) having an airbag fit issue

Honda Motor's controversial president, chief operating officer and representative director Takanobu Ito has quit and will be replaced by Takahiro Hachigo, currently the company’s managing officer, who will become senior managing officer in April and president, chief executive officer and representative director in late June.

Ito will remain on the board and become director and advisor to the automaker. All of this needs final approval by the board at annual shareholders’ meeting, scheduled for late June 2015.

A Reuters report noted Honda had had a difficult year with quality problems that have led to multiple recalls of its popular Fit [Jazz] hybrid subcompact which Ito conceded earlier this month could have been caused at least in part by an aggressive sales target.

This was compounded by multi-million-vehicle recalls to replace air bag inflators made by top supplier Takata that have so far been linked to six deaths, all in Honda cars.

For the past three years, Ito, 61, a feisty former supercar engineer, has shaken up Honda's decades old, tightly knit supply chain as the automaker sought to trim costs and find more cutting edge technologies. That has predictably rankled local suppliers, and some retired Honda executives manoeuvred to have Ito removed, sources have told Reuters.

"I think this move is an attempt by Honda to tread a different course, with someone who upholds harmony," Takaki Nakanishi, a veteran auto analyst and CEO of Nakanishi Research Institute, told Reuters.

A former senior Honda official told the news agency he was surprised by Monday's announcement. Hachigo had been widely expected to join Honda's board, but "like many inside Honda, I'd thought Ito was ready to continue as CEO at least for another term."

The former official said he thought Ito's resignation was his own decision.

A Honda statement said Hachigo joined Honda in 1982 in research and development operations, principally as a chassis engineer. He was in charge of developing the first generation US-built Odyssey minivan which was launched in 1999 primarily for the US. He was also in charged of the second generation CR-V launched in 2001.

From April 2004 to March 2006, Hachigo was stationed in US as senior vice president of Honda R&D Americas. In April 2006, he became operating officer of Honda R&D and then managing officer in April 2007. After retiring from this position in March 2008, Hachigo became a senior purchasing executive and became operating officer of Honda Motor in June of the same year.

Hachigo then assumed a role in the area of manufacturing as general manager of Honda’s Suzuka Factory in April 2011. He served as vice president and director of Honda Motor Europe from April 2012 to March 2013 and also as president and director, Honda R&D Europe (UK) from September 2012 to March 2013. In 2013, Hachigo’s responsibilities shifted to China, becoming vice president of Honda Motor (China) Investment in April, simultaneously becoming representative of development, purchasing and production (China), Honda Motor, and vice president of Honda Motor Technology (China). In April 2014, Hachigo was promoted to his current post of managing officer of Honda Motor.

In the statement, Honda said Ito, who also started as a chassis engineer, had, during his six years at the helm, developed a global manufacturing structure, notably the establishment of automobile plants in Mexico, Brazil, Thailand, Indonesia, India and China. It also enhanced product development from the N-series minivehicles, to automobile powertrain development as represented by the Earth Dreams Technology, to the establishment of product development structures in each of Honda’s global regional operations.

Ito also oversaw a new FCV and "fun to drive" vehicles including the S660, Civic Type R and new NSX.