English will now be the official language of global meetings at Honda Motor Co., as the carmaker now allows regional units to make decisions. Honda chief executive Takanobu Ito informed global employees of the change in April, according to John Mendel, executive vice president of the carmaker's sales unit in the United States.
Honda promoted Mendel to its North American management committee in 2012, as part of a move by Ito to localize business decisions. Honda's move follows language conversions by Japanese companies like Fast Retailing Co., and Rakuten Inc., which is Japan's biggest Internet mall.
The new rule is applicable to in-person meetings and video conferences, increasing the chances that top executives will use interpreters. Fast Retailing President Tadashi Yanai and Ito have done so in media interviews.
"Imagine the shock sent through the operation," Mendel said in an interview with Automotive News at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Rakuten announced its shift to English as its official language in 2010, phasing in the language's use over two years. Fast Retailing started using English as its official language in 2012. Tiremaker Bridgestone Corp. decided in October 2013 to gradually implement English as its official language.
The shift to English comes as Honda overhauls its Honda and Acura lines to prevent the onslaught of improving vehicles from rival carmakers in Asia, Europe and the United States. Honda recently disclosed further modifications to its Civic, as it tries to stave off challenges from small cars in the US like the Toyota Corolla, the Hyundai Elantra and the Ford Focus.