Honda Motor Co. President Takanobu Ito could be laying low this year as his company suffered a number of setbacks in 2014. In fact, he will not be attending the first major auto show of the year in Detroit. In his stead, his right-hand men will be unveiling a new version of the NSX supercar at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show.
Three years ago, he unveiled the concept of NSX sports car at the show. Last year was not so good – at least five deaths involving Honda vehicles were linked to defective Takata airbags and the issuance of recalls of record autos to fix separate flaws in some of its most crucial models.
Those setbacks have softened the interest for the NSX’s eventual comeback and have prompted Honda’s board to reduce Ito’s pay. Dave Sullivan, an analyst at AutoPacific Inc., told Automotive News through phone that Honda has bigger things to worry about than an auto show.
He added that dealing with the recalls is more important than a limited-production supercar. As for Ito’s absence at the show, Honda spokesman Chris Martin, said that the president’s schedule is “quite busy and complex,” which “did not allow him to attend” the event this year.
Ito’s absence, however, is puzzling as North America accounts for over 40 percent of Honda’s sales. In 2914, Honda recalled 5.4 million vehicles in the United States to replace possibly defective Takata airbags.
Aside from Honda, nine other carmakers also issued recalls of vehicles fitted with the airbags. However, Honda’s response to the defects have prompted the United States government to penalized the carmaker with a record $70 million fine – all for its failure to report 1,729 death and injury incidents to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over 11 years.
Honda has also recalled the Fit five times since its launch in late 2013. The carmaker has also called back the Vezel crossover three times. Honda had to delay the introduction of new vehicles as it manages the recalls of the Fit and Vezel.