Honda Putting No. 2 Executive in U.S. in Localization Drive

Honda plans to post its second-highest ranking global executive in the U.S. for the first time as the automaker that was Japan’s first to build cars in the market extends a three-decade localization push.

Tetsuo Iwamura, 60, Honda’s chief operating officer for North America, on April 1 adds the titles of executive vice president and executive officer, the Tokyo-based company said today in a statement. Iwamura is to also join Honda’s board in late June, pending shareholder approval, the company said.

Iwamura will continue to run operations in North America while assisting President Takanobu Ito in managing global sales, said Jun Odajima, a company spokesman. “This is the first time the top North American executive has also been the No. 2 company official,” he said.

The promotion of Iwamura and naming of Erik Berkman to lead Honda’s U.S. research and development unit, the first time that job has gone to a non-Japanese engineer, come as the company lifts production across North America, its biggest source of revenue, to counter a rising yen. Honda is increasing vehicle output at plants in the U.S. and Canada, adding a factory in Mexico to build subcompacts and preparing to make the Acura NSX supercar in Ohio by 2014.

Berkman, currently vice president of corporate planning and logistics for U.S. auto operations, is to become president of Honda R&D Americas on April 1, the company said.

Honda’s U.S. headquarters are in Torrance, California. The company’s American depositary receipts rose 1.3 percent to $37.28 at the close in New York.