11/25/13

Honda Makes English Its Official Language for Global Meetings


Japanese companies are known to be very traditional in managing their operations, and automakers make no exception. Only a decade ago, foreign executives were very rare in Japanese companies, but the globalization process has made them more open to overseas talent.

Honda Motor Company has taken this approach one-step further, choosing English as the official language at its global meetings. The step seems logical, given that almost half of the company’s sales come from North America.

Honda CEO Takanobu Ito made the change early this year and informed global employees in April, said John Mendel, executive vice president of Honda’s U.S. sales unit, at the LA Auto Show. An American, Mendel was promoted to Honda’s North American management committee in 2012, as part of Ito’s strategy to localize business decisions.

“Imagine the shock sent through the operation. 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,’” Mendel was quoted as saying by Bloomberg. He added that the adoption of English for global company meetings is a small, but not insignificant change. 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.

Honda isn’t the first Japanese automaker to switch to English for its global meetings. Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan and Renault, implemented a similar policy at Nissan more than 10 years ago. 

By Dan Mihalascu


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