Honda CEO Takanobu Ito criticized the “complacent” nature of his company at the Beijing Auto Show, taking aim at poor sales figures, a lack of product direction and a need to focus on improving the company’s hybrid systems.
Honda’s market share slid by 0.4 percent, with Ito citing the disappointing sales of the Insight hybrid as a particular sore spot. In Insight has been pitched as an alternative to the Prius, but poor reviews, lower fuel economy numbers and the lack of cachet surrounding the vehicle has seen the Insight get trounced in the sales race, with Toyota selling 5 times as many Prius hybrids.
The most surprising part of this candid interview was Ito’s admission that “It’s possible we grew complacent about the good performance of the Accord, Civic and CR-V.” The Accord recently lost a major Car and Driver comparison test to the Hyundai Sonata, while the CR-V faces stiff competition from a growing segment, including Hyundai’s new Tucson. Ito also cited Hyundai as a major threat, and said that Honda must change its course to compete with the Korean giant. “The biggest problem is we’re not selling the value of our products. We have to improve the performance of our products as well.”
Ito also announced plans for a new hybrid system for large cars, involving two large electric motors, one which charges the battery, the other which gives the gasoline engine a power boost. The system will be used on an upcoming Acura hybrid, as well as minivans and mid-size cars.
Honda has traditionally resisted a number of technologies employed by its competitors, including turbochargers, rear-wheel drive and V8 engines, and stuck to their formula of light-weight, efficient and practical vehicles. But Ito’s comments could indicate that the “Honda way” is beginning to falter, and some new direction is needed at the venerable Japanese firm.
[Source: Automotive News]