Honda Motor Co. Ltd. names Takanobu Ito, currently in charge of automobile operations, as the company’s new CEO.

Ito, a research and development expert who has experience in the U.S., replaces Takeo Fukui, who has headed Honda for six years and now will become an executive advisor to Japan’s No.2 auto maker.

Ito, who joined the company in 1978, will continue to oversee Honda’s R&D when he takes over the top post in June. He is credited with developing the all-aluminum-bodied NSX sports car, which launched sales in 1990.

Fukui during his career has led Honda’s global expansion, including the push into the critical U.S. market.

The two executives are quoted in media reports as saying the change in leadership is necessary to demonstrate the auto maker’s determination to bring change while also pressing ahead with technical innovations in order to be positioned for the industry’s recovery.

Ito tells the Associated Press he will continue Fukui’s vision of developing ecological and affordable vehicles, such as the upcoming Insight hybrid-electric vehicle, and “other products that can pave the way for new times.”