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EXCLUSIVE-Honda to appoint R&D chief Toshihiro Mibe as new CEO -sources

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TOKYO, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Honda Motor Co Ltd will name Toshihiro Mibe, head of the its research and development arm, as new chief executive officer, two people with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Japan’s second-biggest automaker by sales will announce the decision after a board meeting as early as Friday, the people said, requesting anonymity because the information is not public. Mibe will be confirmed as president and representative director at an annual shareholders’ meeting in June, they said.

Honda hiked its full-year operating profit forecast 23% to 520 billion yen ($4.91 billion) earlier this month as it trimmed costs while demand in China and elsewhere gained momentum. That compared with larger peer Toyota Motor Corp which raised its forecast by a bigger-than-expected 54% to a record $19 billion.

Mibe, who is a director at Honda, will replace Takahiro Hachigo, who has held the CEO role for six years. Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Seiji Kuraishi will remain in his post to support Mibe, the people said.

It was not immediately clear whether Hachigo would retain a position at Honda.

“No decisions have been made, and there is nothing we can say,” a Honda spokesman said in response to Reuters’ query about the personnel moves.

Mibe, 59, joined Honda in 1987, taking part in engine development as well as managing powertrain and drivetrain businesses. His career includes an operating officer stint in 2014 and he is currently also in charge of intellectual property and standardisation.

After becoming Honda R&D president in 2019, he and Hachigo pushed forward structural reform at the research unit, with electrification in mind.

Hachigo became CEO in 2015, a rare appointment for Honda considering he had not headed the R&D arm as is typical for Honda CEOs.

He spearheaded restructuring plans to simplify and improve efficiency in developing cars, seeking ways to cut model variations and production costs.

During his tenure, the automaker consolidated vehicle and motorcycle development operations, while shifting the research unit’s focus to new mobility and robotics. ($1 = 105.9500 yen) (Reporting by Tokyo bureau and Maki Shiraki; Writing by Eimi Yamamitsu; Editing by Chang-Ran Kim and Christopher Cushing)

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