President and chief executive officer, Honda Motor Company
Born: November 28, 1944, in Tokyo, Japan.
Education: Waseda University, BS, 1969.
Career: Honda Motor Company, 1969–1979, engineer; Honda R&D Company, 1979–1982, chief engineer; Honda Racing Corporation, 1982–1983, chief engineer; 1983–1985, director; 1985–1987, executive vice president; Honda R&D Company, 1987–1988, managing director; Honda Racing Corporation, 1987–1988, president; Honda Motor Company, 1988–1990, director; Honda R&D Company, 1990–1991, senior managing director; Honda Motor Company, 1991–1992, general manager of Motorcycle Development; 1992–1994, general manager of Hamamatsu Factory, Motorcycle Operations; Honda of America Manufacturing, 1994–1996, executive vice president and director; Honda Motor Company, 1996–1998, managing director; Honda of America Manufacturing, 1996–1998, president and director; Honda R&D Company, 1998–2003, president; Honda Motor Company, 1999–2003, senior managing and representative director; 2003–, president and CEO.
Address: Honda Giken Kogyo Kabushiki Kaisha, 17-1, 2-chome, Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo 1077-8556, Japan; http://world.honda.com.
■ Takeo Fukui, a veteran Honda engineer, has taken a well-established route to the top spot at Honda Motor Company, a company that started out as a small motorcycle company in Hamamtsu, Japan, in 1959 but steadily grew into a leading manufacturer of such products as all-terrain vehicles, automobiles, generators, lawn mowers, marine engines, motorcycles, personal watercraft, and power equipment. The traditional path taken by Fukui is one that has long been dictated by company policy, which emphasizes Honda's engineering-oriented corporate culture. He was drawn initially to Honda because, at that time, it was the only Japanese car manufacturer involved with Formula One racing and the research and development necessary to develop such vehicles.
Fukui's career as of 2004 had spanned more than three decades with Honda. During this time, his widespread duties focused primarily on engineering, racing, and research and development. During the course of his outstanding career he worked with the team that developed the landmark CVCC (compound vortex-controlled combustion) engine. The clean er-burning engine vaulted the Honda Civic in 1975 to the ranks of the first car to meet the strict U.S. Clean Air Act standard without the use of a catalytic converter. Another success for Fukui was in leading Honda's motorcycle racing team to a string of championships in the 1980s. A third accomplishment under his direction was the Japanese launch in 2001 of Honda's successful Fit subcompact car.
Fukui started his career in April 1969 as an engineer—working with Hiroyuki Yoshino, then CEO, and Nobuhiko Kawamoto, an engineer who later assumed the Honda presidency—on the Honda project team that developed the CVCC engine. He was assigned to the engineering team that eventually met for the first time the challenging exhaust emissions standards of the U.S. Clean Air Act.
According to Todd Zaun, writing in the Wall Street Journal (July 10, 2003), Fukui had a strong competitive nature even in his early days with Honda. A superior reported that during early government tests for a new Honda Civic, Fukui applied excessive lubrication to the test car's engine so that it would operate at peak performance. The application succeeded in raising the car's fuel-economy rating; however, a government official quickly realized what had happened and forced Honda to retest the car. Although Fukui does not deny the tale, he admits, "The truth is, as part of my nature, I don't like to lose."
By the first quarter of 1979 Fukui had been appointed the chief engineer at Honda R&D Company, and three years later he was selected to be chief engineer at the Honda Racing Corporation. After losing a string of races during the late 1970s, Fukui abandoned research on a sophisticated four-stroke engine technology and returned to the older, but tested, two-stroke design. Soon, Fukui was leading his racing team to nearly a decade-long series of victories, including Honda's first world championship within the World Grand Prix 500cc class. At that time, according to the Wall Street Journal , Fukui said, "Ultimately, the result is everything."
By December 1983 Fukui had attained his first management position, that of director for the Honda Racing Corporation. Then, in September 1985, he was promoted to executive vice president of the Honda Racing Corporation and, in May 1987, was promoted to president, along with additional duties as managing director of the Honda R&D Company. At this time, Fukui felt that he clearly understood automobile racing and the technology it took to develop such a program, having benefited from thoroughly discussing racing technology (and "racing spirit") with the race-car innovator and Honda founder Soichiro Honda. A year later, in 1988, Fukui was again promoted, this time to director of the Honda Motor Company. By this time, Fukui had assumed overall responsibility for motorcycle development, which he supervised from 1987 to 1992.
The early 1990s saw Fukui assume the positions of senior managing director at the Honda R&D Company; general manager at Motorcycle Development, Honda Motor Company; and general manager at the Hamamatsu Factory, Motorcycle Operations, Honda Motor Company. The Hamamatsu Factory possessed one of Honda's more multifaceted manufacturing facilities, producing a complex mix of products that included auto transmissions, motorcycles, and power products. By mid-1994 Fukui had become executive vice president and director of Honda of America Manufacturing (HAM) in Ohio. Two years later, in 1996, he became HAM president and also the managing director of Honda Motor Company. Fukui assumed this leadership role at a time of innovation for the North American automobile/motorcycle complex. With increasing U.S. demand for Honda products, Fukui guided HAM to a significantly expanded operation in production, design, number of models, and suppliers.
Before assuming the positions of president and chief executive officer of Honda Motor Company, Fukui was president of Honda R&D Company (starting in 1998); a year later (1999) he was promoted to senior managing and representative director (in charge of motor-sport activities, including Formula One Grand Prix racing) of the Honda Motor Company. At the end of June 2003 Fukui attained the highest positions at Honda, president and chief executive officer. He brought to these roles his expertise in research and development, engineering, construction, environmental technology (including pollution-control technologies), racing activities, and the manufacturing of automobiles, motorcycles, and power products.
Michael Flynn, director of the University of Michigan's Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation, emphasized the need for Honda's top executives to have extensive experience in the United States, its largest market. In addition, Mary-Beth Kellenberger, an industry analyst with Frost & Sullivan, stated that executive selections at Honda (such as Fukui's) demonstrate the company's emphasis on engineering and R&D knowledge, with a special stress on manufacturing and sales.
Like all previous Honda presidents selected to lead world wide operations, Fukui had the necessary experience in the U.S. market and with manufacturing, engineering, and research and development. Specifically, beginning in 1994, Fukui was vice president and later, in 1996, president of Honda of America Manufacturing. He directed the Ohio manufacturing plants at Marysville, East Liberty, and Anna, where Honda, as of the early 2000s, had about 13,000 employees who were making such automobiles as the Accord, Civic, and Element. Beginning in 1998 Fukui ran the huge manufacturing and engineering operation of the Honda R&D Company in Ohio, Honda's research and development branch.
Fukui assumed the helm at Honda during an increasingly challenging time. Several crucial areas were showing signs of weakness for Honda, weaknesses of which Fukui was well aware when he shaped his goals for directing the company. The all-important U.S. market was continuing to post solid sales, but its rate of growth had slowed, in part because of the 2002 Iraqi war and the sluggish economy during the first three years of the 2000s. In Japan, Fukui recognized that Honda faced increasing competition from the Toyota Motor Corporation and a rapidly growing Nissan Motor Company. To meet these challenges, Fukui formulated several goals.
His first goal was to initiate a new plan of development, which would take effect with the 2005–2006 fiscal year. At that time, Fukui intended to direct the company toward medium-term growth within its worldwide business arenas and to concentrate on improving the quality and technological advancement of Honda products and the degree of motivation of its employees. He was especially interested in fuel-cell technology in future transportation. Moreover, Fukui intended to focus on strong vehicle performance. One way to ensure high standards of vehicle performance, he believed, was to maximize the company's exposure to Formula One racing. Fukui also planned to concentrate on heightening what the automobile industry termed the "fun-to-drive quotient" of Honda vehicles. As he saw it, the fun-to-drive factor derives from Honda's concept of a comprehensive package of ride, styling, equipment, and performance.
Another goal was to continue strengthening the global network put in place by Yoshino during his five-year tenure as president of Honda R&D. By expanding and integrating Honda's global operations, which stretched from the United States to England to Indonesia, Fukui hoped to push the network into the rapidly expanding Chinese market and other developing Asian markets. Fukui planned to more than double production in China during 2004, as the company expected demand by Chinese consumers to grow rapidly. However, because Honda is Japan's second-largest car-manufacturing company, Fukui was critically aware that he needed to focus on revitalizing Honda's Japanese operations, which, as noted, had seen increasing competition from Nissan and Toyota. Finally, Fukui intended to aggressively pursue Honda's continued expansion in the U.S. market.
In pursuing these goals, Fukui conceived of Honda as more than an automobile maker. Instead, he thought of Honda as a "mobility" company, involved in many modes of transportation, including new areas such as airplanes. In fact, Fukui planned to build a "Honda Civic of the Sky," a twin-engine, four- to five-passenger jet with improved aerodynamics, an engine that would deliver a 20 percent increase in fuel efficiency over traditional small jets, and new lightweight composite materials for the fuselage.
Fukui did not focus on volume target or market share; instead, customer satisfaction was his first priority, as well as consistently improving product image. His philosophy stemmed from this priority: satisfying customers and improving products expand sales and, in turn, produce plant expansion. Unlike most automakers, who build their plants first and then calculate market share based on production capacity, Fukui pointed out that he intended do the opposite so as not to diminish quality and performance.
According to GrandPrix.com, Fukui stated his intent to focus the company on "establishing the technology that will drive the 21st century auto market" ("Honda's New Boss Is a Racer"). In Fukui's view, Honda must continue to meet the challenge of a global community by both respecting and understanding other countries' cultures when introducing Honda products into those societies. As of 2004 Honda was progressing in many and varied directions, led by Takeo Fukui, a fiercely competitive and experienced engineer.
See also entries on Honda Motor Company Limited, Nissan Motor Co., and Toyota Motor Corporation in International Directory of Company Histories .
"Honda's New Boss Is a Racer," GrandPrix.com, http://www.grandprix.com/ns/ns11052.html .
Nelson, Dave, Rick Mayo, and Patricia E. Moody, Powered by Honda: Developing Excellence in the Global Enterprise , New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1998.
Sakiya, Tetsuo (translated by Kiyoshi Ikemi), Honda Motor: The Men, the Management, the Machines , New York: Kodansha International/USA, 1982.
Shook, Robert L. Honda: An American Success Story , New York: Prentice Hall, 1988.
Zaun, Todd, "New Honda CEO Faces Big Drop in Japan Sales," Wall Street Journal , July 10, 2003.
—William Arthur Atkins