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After having taken quite a beating with reviews of the new Civic, Honda has been on the offensive, promising updates while announcing its new “Earth Dreams Technology” plan to reestablish itself as a fuel economy leader. With the debut of the EV-STER electric sports car concept and confirmation that a new NSX is on the horizon, company president Takanobu Ito is now going a step further, while explaining the faults of the past.
In an interview with the The Nikkei, he explains Honda’s old product planning method. “We divided the world into six regions, and Honda’s regional operations were each responsible for their respective regions. Whenever we planned a product for the global market, our thinking was that we needed to listen to each regional supervisor.”
The result, says Ito, was a lowest-common-denominator approach to building a car, watering down all the characteristics of a vehicle to the greatest mass-market appeal. The problem admits Ito is that, “When you harmonize all the different opinions, you end up with a safe, boring car.”
Under the old method of doing business, the vehicle development team was essentially taking the designed-by-committee idea and building a car around it.
Ito says that since he took over in April of last year, changed the system. “I had three corporate officers each supervise luxury, midsize and small vehicles,” he said. “Putting more authority in their hands, I asked them to create more competitive autos and to speed up coordination with product planning and regional operations. I set up a structure that would allow them to take the lead in realizing the wishes of the development team. The fruits of these moves will begin to appear in the market next fiscal year.”
Exactly what those fruits are, says Ito, will be cars that are environmentally friendly and safe, but also ones that are “highly distinctive”. Honda, after all, has a long history of unique vehicles from the NSX, S2000, CRX and del Sol. But perhaps most importantly, he says, “This strategy will be represented by our effort to make vehicles more sporty.”
[Source: Nikkei via TTAC]
If so, the new NSX might just be the best-kept secret in the auto industry. That vehicle would just be a concept, however, with a production model likely timed for a 2012 debut with sales starting the following year.
Look for the “new NSX” to differ significantly from the old model, however, focusing on performance, but also fuel economy, with a hybrid system likely.
Honda CEO Takanobu Ito has given a look at the direction Honda will be taking in the coming years, putting strong emphasis on small cars and hybrids. At his annual mid-year speech, Ito gave a rough outline of the Japanese automaker’s future direction, while dropping a few important notes about new products.
Two important new hybrids will join the automaker’s lineup: a revised Civic Hybrid and plug-in hybrid. The Civic Hybrid (which will be the only version of the Civic Honda plans to sell in Japan in the future) will toss its conventional nickle metal hydride battery for a more advanced lithium ion unit, that will be more powerful and more compact. That model is set to debut in 2012 in both the U.S. and Japan.
That same year Honda also intends to bring a plug-in hybrid model to market, as well as a battery-electric “commuter vehicle.” It’s not yet clear if the plug-in hybrid will be a version of the Civic Hybrid, or perhaps a version of the Insight or CR-Z.
In addition, Honda will expand its hybrid lineup with a long list of small cars, many of which are also tipped to include hybrid drivetrains. The first of these will be the Fit Hybrid, which is set to debut this Fall – possibly at the Paris Auto Show.
Honda is expected to stick with it’s IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) hybrid setup for these new models. While not as sophisticated as Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive, nor as good on fuel, it is significantly less expensive, allowing Honda to equip smaller cars with the system and to sell them at more affordable rates.
In the same timeframe Honda is expected to debut a new small car for emerging markets like India. Last year Honda hinted at the direction this new model would take when it unveiled its New Small Concept at the Auto Expo show in New Delhi, India.
Beyond 2012, Honda will look to add electric vehicles to its lineup, improve upon its gasoline and diesel engines, with a new diesel engine being developed for Europe that is smaller than the current 2.2-liter offering). Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicles are also in the automaker’s plans, with Ito commenting that the company’s FCX Clarity, “will provide the ultimate mobility.”
GALLERY: Honda New Small Concept
Several new models are planned for emerging markets that will also be locally built to improve cost effectiveness. A new sub-£7000 small car will be launched in India next year, while Thailand will also get an “eco-car with an excellent level of fuel economy” in 2011. This model will be exported to other emerging nations, too.
The next-generation Honda Civic will be delayed until 2011, possibly as a 2012 model year car. This will put the Civic significantly past the typical five-year cycle, stretching until six or possibly even seven years before the ninth-generation car debuts. The current Civic arrived back in September of 2005, making it already quite dated.
Honda COO Tsuneo Tanai admitted at last year’s Tokyo Auto Show that significant changes were being made to the Civic, which was already getting close to production.
The reason for the drastic updates is due to significantly tougher fuel economy targets says American Honda Motor Co.’s VP John Mendel. The move is also, no doubt, attributed to serious competition from unfamiliar foes like the Ford and Chevy, which have both promised 40-mpg versions of the Focus and Cruze. While Honda is often known to be a fuel economy leader, as it stands the current lineup of cars is set to be outmatched by emerging domestic rivals in the sub-compact class; and improvements of just one or two miles per gallon won’t be enough to put Honda on top.
Rather than bring the planned Civic to market and have it fail, Honda is choosing to hang on to the current model (which, luckily for them is already quite good) in order to plan and come out with something better.
The news follows a report that Honda CEO Takanobu Ito is “not satisfied” with his company’s performance and the complacent attitude that has set in among its leaders.
As for the CR-V, Mendel confirmed that it will stock to a five-year production cycle with a redesign coming next year.
[Source: Autmotive News]
Honda‘s newish Insight hybrid had a lot of buzz when it first launched, but in just a year it has since faded into oblivion. Sure it undercut the Prius in price, but it didn’t get near the mpgs, and wasn’t the sort of dynamic drive that people have come to expect from a Honda. We didn’t hate the car, but we did find it to be lacking in the sort of engineering prowess Honda prides itself in. Our feelings were echoed by the industry and consumers, who opted for Toyota’s more efficient (if more expensive) Prius at a 5 to 1 rate.
Honda CEO Takanobu Ito has recognized this issue and an overall complacency at the Japanese automaker and has vowed to do something about it. Stating quite frankly that he’s not “satisfied,” with the efforts of the company, he has vowed that the next generation Insight will top the Prius in fuel economy. Currently the Insight gets just 40/43 mpg (city/highway) compared to the Prius at 51/48 mpg. Ito is also urging haste, telling Honda’s engineers to bring the car to market quickly – suggesting that the current Insight may not last for a full four or five year cycle.
To out-do the Prius in fuel economy Honda is working on a two-mode hybrid system (like the one found in the Prius), and will likely do away with the out-dated Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) setup it currently uses. In addition,
In addition, Honda is developing 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 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]
A brand desperately in search of a clear direction, Acura will soon deliver a hybrid model says Honda CEO Takanobu Ito.
The announcement was made by Ito just prior to introducing the latest hybrid in the Honda lineup, the CR-Z. Ito did not comment on if an Acura hybrid would use Honda’s IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) hybrid technology, which by all accounts is outdated compared to full-hybrid systems currently on the market from company’s like Toyota and Ford.
Acura has struggled to find itself in the luxury marketplace since it moved away from entry-level models like the RSX and decided not to offer competitive top-tier products to compete with vehicles like the Lexus LS. Plans to build a successor to the NSX have all but fallen apart, even though the company recently debuted what appears to be a very capable replacement (the HSV-010). Honda has said that model is only for racing.
In the past Ito has commented that Honda has no plans to deliver a V8 engine, meaning that Acura won’t be competing with Lexus in the premium flagship segment any time soon. Meanwhile, the Acura brand has launched the ZDX, a coupe-styled crossover, aimed at a very small segment of the market.
It’s likely the first hybrid from Acura will be based on the ucoming relacement for the RL, however, an entry-level hybrid model is also a possibility.
Hybrid Odyssey a possibility
Slowly, Honda appears to be learning how the hybrid marketplace works. In a recent interview Honda CEO Takanobu Ito said that the company is working on more powerful two-mode hybrid systems (like the one used by Toyota) that will allow for the car to operate using either gas, electricity or a combination of both. Currently, Honda’s IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) setup does not allow for electric-only driving and as a result the system isn’t nearly as efficient as Toyota’s – although it is much cheaper to produce.
A more powerful two-mode hybrid setup would also be a viable drivetrain for larger vehicles, like the Accord, Pilot and Odyssey – which is rumored to have a hybrid version in 2011. Honda isn’t rushing the new two-mode setup to market, however, and is reportedly waiting on a lithium-ion battery pack to help deliver optimum fuel economy.
From 2005 to 2007, Honda made the Accord Hybrid (above). Honda built the car as more of a performance vehicle than a fuel-miser, however, and it showed. The car’s fuel economy rating wasn’t overly impressive and sales were even worse.
A two-mode hybrid setup would allow for significantly improved fuel economy, with a Hybrid Accord once again a possibility, along with a hybrid Odyssey, or Pilot or CR-V, or…
[Source: Automotive News via GreenCarReports]
Honda is looking to make big changes across its product lineup, and the first model to go under the microscope is the next generation of the award winning and incredibly popular Civic. The Japanese automaker wants to make all of its vehicles more fuel efficient and less expensive, which will require significant changes to the Civic, a car that is already well-along in the development process.
In an interview with Automotive News Company CEO Takanobu Ito said, “We are taking more time to rethink the civic and all our models.” COO Tsuneo Tanai elaborated on this saying that Civic engineers were specifically told to make the car smaller, lighter and more fuel efficient than it was originally designed to be. This could be problematic as the next Civic was set to be larger than the current car.
The worry is that this new stage of development could delay the car, which could also delay numerous other Civic-based vehicles, like the CR-V.
Honda believes this focus on fuel-economy is the way to go. “We perceived that U.S. customers are sensitive to the external environment, and their response is very direct,” said Tanai, referring to the rise in gasoline prices last year that caused the Civic to out-sell the Ford F-Series pickup.
If Honda intends to keep to a five year production cycle, the next Civic will have to arrive some time next year as as 2011 model.
[Source: Automotive News via AutoWeek]
Speaking to reporters at the Tokyo Auto Show, Honda CEO Takanobu Ito suggested that when the time is right he would like to build a “green” sports car. The Japanese automaker faces two big hurdles first, however: a lack of cash as well as insufficient technology. “Once we have that technology and once we have cash on hand, I would like to see Honda have a sports car that symbolizes our technology,” he told Automotive News.
While Honda is set to launch the compact hybrid CR-Z sports car next year, this new car would be a range-topping vehicle with optimum performance and fuel economy. Honda is struggling in the technology department, however, with hybrid systems that are much less efficient than competing systems.
Ito made the comments just after Toyota drew back the covers on its 560-hp Lexus LFA supercar, which uses “old fashioned” internal combustion technology. Earlier in the month he told Reuters that big displacement engines are nostalgic and that the people who like them are, “stuck in the past.” Knowing full well at the time that Toyota was about to debut its new V10-powered flagship, Ito professed that, “The era of V10 engines is gone.”
Until last year, Honda was in development of a V10-powered replacement to the Acura NSX, but Honda canned the project due economic concerns. The concept car’s harsh reviews by the automotive press also, no doubt, had a hand in the vehicle’s demise.
[Source: Automotive News]
Move would allow Honda to sell Fit at lower MSRP
Honda is reportedly considering moving production of the sub-compact Fit to the U.S. Company president Takanobu Ito said the move is a “highly likely possibility.”
The move makes good economic sense as the poor exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and Japanese Yen means that profit margins on the Fit are extremely slim. Moving production to the U.S. would greatly increase those margins, meaning that Honda could significantly improve how much it makes in each unit sold, or offer the car at a lower price. (Or, more likely, a bit of both). As it stands, the Fit is already the most expensive sub-compact on the market, although in so many ways it has proven its value. But Honda is about to face a lot more competition with Ford set to launch the Fiesta and Mazda ready to launch the Mazda2.
Ito also commented that Honda is likely to move more of its production of mainstream models to the U.S., while keeping the build process of more technologically complex and expensive models, like hybirds and sports cars, based in Japan.
[Source: Automotive News via Autoblog]
Japanese auto manufacturers consider Korea’s Hyundai to be their biggest threat, according to a report by The Associated Press.
As automakers around the world struggle to survive the weakened economy and up-and-coming Chinese companies seek to make a name for themselves, Hyundai has emerged as a major player.
“Hyundai is awesome,” Honda Motor Co. chief executive Takanobu Ito told The Associated Press. “They are undoubtedly a threat because their products are cheap, and the quality is improving.”
Shiro Nakamura, senior vice-president of Nissan Motor Co., agrees, calling Hyundai “the biggest threat for the Japanese automakers.”
Hyundai, with help from its subsidiary Kia, is the fifth-largest automotive group in the world, recently climbing to take 5% of the global market share despite the poor economy. Even worse news for Honda and Nissan, the Korean manufacturer is number two in Japanese sales, behind only Toyota.
In the U.S., Hyundai has been very strong, being the only manufacturer to have better sales (up 27%) in September 2009 than in the same month last year.
[Source: The Associated Press]
Acura will not introduce a rear-drive, V8-powered luxury sedan as the automaker doesn’t need one. At least that’s what Honda president Takanobu Ito thnks.
Ito told Automotive News that, “I don’t think we need a classic front-engine, rear-drive car.” Instead Ito believes Honda should chart its own course for Acura, which includes more fuel-efficient models, including hybrids. Acura’s use of all-wheel drive, however, seems somewhat contrary to its fuel-economy goals.
Ito did say that Acura has been experimenting with hybrid technology on mid- to large-size vehicles, but did not say when we might see a production model
Traditional German luxury automakers like BMW and Mercedes set the benchmark for luxury sedans with front-engine, rear-drive vehicles like the 7 Series and S-Class and so far the only Japanese luxury automaker to truly establish itself at tier-one has been Lexus, which offers the front-engine, rear-drive LS. That being said, for Acura to establish itself as a top-level contender without such a vehicle seems unlikely.
[Source: Automotive News via LeftlaneNews]