From the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s, there was no question that Honda was an enthusiast oriented brand. This was not only reflected in it’s product portfolio, especially the likes of the Civic, CRX and Prelude, but also in its marketing campaigns and motorsports programs.
Back then, Honda engines dominated Formula 1, propelling the likes of Nelson Piquet, Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost to World Championships. A knock on effect was that F1 technology trickled down to the street, manifesting itself in machines like the Acura/Honda NSX, regarded as one of the best handling supercars ever built.
While Honda enthusiasts still wistfully look back at those golden years, in recent times, the Japanese automaker has struggled to maintain its identity, coming under criticism for cars like the 2012 Civic, a machine whose perceived lack of quality and refinement led Consumer Reports to remove it from its “Recommended” list.
However, there are signs that Honda is trying to re-capture the “je ne said quoi” that marked the company and its products a generation ago. It’s new North American R&D boss, Erik Berkman, who spearheaded the introduction of the popular 2004 Acura TL, is putting together a plan designed to help Honda restore its reputation. Among programs already in place include a refresh for the Civic, the sportier, more dynamic 2013 Accord and of course a revival of the famed NSX.
Berkman, an engineer whose been with Honda for more than three decades, has developed a reputation for pushing the envelope in a traditionally very conservative company, in the process delivering solid results. Not surprisingly, the firm’s top brass have high expectations on him in his new role.
Already it looks like plans to re-invigorate the brand are working, the new NSX concept is generating a buzz not witnessed in years, while in 2012, Honda sales are up by 10 percent; May alone posting gains of 48 percent.
Honda’s executive vice president and head of North American Operations, Tetsuo Iwamura, recently said of Berkman, “through his career, he has had a very good understanding of Honda.What we expect him to do is, through this good knowledge and experience [is to] fulfill his dream of making North America strong.” Let’s hope so.
[Source: Auto News]