Takahiro Hachigo, 56, who took office last month, said the automaker intends to eschew "aggressive" sales goals and will refocus on creating new models that "carry dreams and satisfy our customers."
He replaces Takanobu Ito in the top post after six stormy years of safety recalls, natural disasters and criticism from reviewers that Honda vehicles had lost their edge with consumers. Last October, Honda issued its fifth recall in a year for its Fit subcompact crossover, prompting executives to impose a 20% pay cut on themselves.
Hachigo, an engineer for 33 years who led the creation of the second-generation CR-V, appears to be swiping a page from the playbook of Akio Toyoda, chief executive of Toyota (TM - Get Report), which is recovering from similar difficulties.
Honda last month was forced to restate earnings for the fiscal year that ended March 31 after expenses related to the recall of cars equipped with Takata airbags, linked to eight deaths, were larger than expected. Operating profits were down 19% from the previous fiscal year.
Last week, Honda expanded its global recall of cars equipped with potentially defective airbags by 4.5 million, on top of 20 million vehicles recalled over the past seven years.
Honda, which has never posted an annual loss -- a claim not even Toyota can make -- nevertheless has lagged Toyota and the Nikkei 225 Index in terms of stock price. Honda shares during the past year rose 51% in price, compared with Toyota's 163% gain, and the Nikkei's 113% rise.
Hachigo is known inside Honda as an executive with good listening skills who specializes in team-building, a stylistic departure from Ito, who was known as a commanding figure who ruled by directive.
The new chief executive has ruled out expansion of Honda's global production capacity, which had been built up under Ito to achieve sales of 6 million vehicles a year by March 2017. Instead, Honda will concentrate on better utilizing existing capacity, Hachigo said. The automaker's global sales are stalled at about 4.4 million vehicles a year.
Honda is the third-largest automaker in Japan, after Toyota and Nissan (NSANY). But in the U.S., it is the second-best-selling Japanese automaker, after Toyota. Through the first half of 2015, Honda had 8.9% share of the U.S. new-vehicle market, while Nissan had an 8.7% share, and Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn is pushing his troops to overtake Honda in the U.S.
Hachigo has stated that his goals for Honda include improved coordination among the automaker's six global operating centers. Lately, the automaker has announced it will begin assembling vehicles from kits in Nigeria, the first time it has done so on the African continent. Also, by 2020, English will be Honda's official workplace language for global meetings, the company has said.