[lg policy] Honda adopts English as official language in global meetings

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Sat Nov 23 14:46:41 UTC 2013


Honda adopts English as official language in global meetings
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 November 22, 2013 - 11:25 am ET

LOS ANGELES (Bloomberg) -- Honda Motor Co. made English the official
language of global meetings as the Japanese carmaker shifts decision-making
power to regional units.

CEO Takanobu Ito informed global employees of the change in April, John
Mendel, executive vice president of the company's U.S. sales unit, said in
an interview at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Mendel was promoted to Honda's
North American management committee in 2012, in an earlier move by Ito to
localize business decisions.

The carmaker's move follows language conversions by Japanese companies
including Fast Retailing Co., Asia's biggest apparel seller and Rakuten
Inc., the country's biggest Internet mall. Honda's new rule applies to
in-person meetings and video conferences, raising the chances top
executives will use interpreters, as Fast Retailing President Tadashi Yanai
and Ito himself have done in media interviews.

"Imagine the shock sent through the operation," Mendel said in an interview
Thursday. "The CEO stands up and says, 'All discussions about global
operations will be conducted in English and oh, by the way, if you don't
understand it, get an interpreter.'"

*English only*

Rakuten announced its shift to English as the company's official language
in 2010 and phased in the language's use over two years. The online
retailer's billionaire President Hiroshi Mikitani, Japan's third-richest
person, earned an MBA at Harvard Business School in 1993.

Yanai implemented English as Fast Retailing's official language last year,
while tiremaker Bridgestone Corp. decided last month to gradually implement
the English requirement.

For Honda, change comes as the Japanese automaker revamps its Honda and
Acura lines to hold off improving Asian and European competitors and the
best vehicles from U.S. automakers in a generation. Honda this week
announced further modifications to its Civic, the best-selling small car in
the U.S., to stay ahead of Toyota Motor Corp.'s new Corolla, Hyundai Motor
Co.'s Elantra and Ford Motor Co.'s Focus.

Honda's sales in the U.S., where it's the fifth-largest automaker, are up
8.5 percent this year through October and should end the year at a record
high, Mendel said, without providing a specific number. The company's best
year in the U.S. was 2007, when Honda and Acura sales reached 1.55 million
vehicles.

*Ghosn's English*

Honda isn't the first Japanese automaker to make such a language shift.
Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA, implemented a similar
policy at Nissan more than a decade ago.

North America accounted for 47 percent of Honda's revenue in the 12 months
ended March 2013.

The adoption of English for global company meetings is a "small, but not
insignificant" change, Mendel said. It's part of a "series of things that
are being put in place to kind of provide a different context for our
business," he said.

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