Despite having been originated in Japan, Honda Motor Co. is perhaps much more a global automaker than a Japanese one; the company was the very first from the island nation to establish manufacturing roots within the United States, and only 32 percent of Honda Motor Co.’s 200,000+ workforce resides there.
So, it is a move perhaps befitting of the thoroughly globalized automaker that Honda Motor Co. has decided to make English its official language for all international communications: documents, presentations, and even phonecalls between, say, a Japanese engineer and an American manager.
Why train Japanese employees in English rather than American employees in Japanese? Automotive News reports that last year, Honda Motor hired just 719 new employees in Japan, versus 4,778 new hires in the US. Furthermore, North American-born employees take up a staggering 59 percent of Honda’s regional senior management, according to AN, and the continent accounts for 40 percent of Honda Motor Co.’s global sales at present.
Just five years ago, former Honda Motor Co. CEO Takanobu Ito said that it would be “stupid” to name English the official language of a Japanese automaker. Now, Honda’s new CEO Takahiro Hachigo wants to change all international communications to the English language by 2020. To do that, Honda Motor Co. is ramping up its language training regimen, and making English proficiency a requirement for promotion to the management level in Japan.
The automaker’s annual sustainability report for the year had the following to say:
“While [expatriated] Japanese associates led management at Honda’s sites in each region in the past, we have now shifted to a system of management by local associates. It is vital to develop an environment that achieves close communication between associates in six regions worldwide.”