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Hans Greimel said:
Honda Motor Co. survived the global financial crisis better than most, avoiding the full-year losses seen on many balance sheets. But Honda's rebound has not been as sharp as most of the rest of the industry. American Honda's sales rose only 3 percent through September, compared with the 10 percent advance for the U.S. market as a whole. Its market share shrank to 10.6 percent, from 11.3 percent a year earlier.

But Honda Motor CEO Takanobu Ito says new products, led by the redesigned Odyssey minivan, will deliver above-average growth in 2011. A blitz of new technologies is also on tap for the next two years, including a hybrid system for mid-sized to large vehicles, an electric car and a small clean diesel drivetrain. Honda also will start overhauling gasoline engines and transmissions.

Ito, 57, spoke with Asia Editor Hans Greimel through an interpreter at Honda's headquarters in Tokyo about the latest technology drive, the positioning of the Acura brand and Ito's market outlook.



Honda's U.S. sales growth is slower than the industry average. Where will it be next year?

Our sales are slightly below our initial expectations. But for next year we will have help from the new Odyssey, an incredibly strong product [which launched this fall in the United States]. The biggest reason our sales are slightly behind is due to the good growth of Hyundai, especially the Sonata. To counter that, we have plans to make the Accord and Civic far more attractive. So for next year, we should be able to get sales growth above the market average.



Has the traditional rivalry between the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry turned into a three-horse race with the Hyundai Sonata?

It has become a competitor.



What models do you see delivering the biggest U.S. sales growth?

The segment that's showing relatively good growth is the light-truck category. And under those circumstances, we are introducing the highly competitive new Odyssey, for which I have high expectations.

The styling looks really sharp. And it comes equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission and our original cylinder deactivation system, which is a big contributor to fuel efficiency and has been further refined. So it combines good driving, good fuel efficiency and good looks. And this has all been developed in the United States by Americans for the American market. I'm very confident that with the Odyssey, we've come out with a good car at the right time.



What about small cars? Are Americans ready to buy them?


With overall demand in such severe shape, it has become difficult to forecast how acceptable the market finds small cars. But if you look from a long-term perspective, demand for small cars -- in our case, the Fit class -- will grow. But it may take some time.

Does that apply to hybrids as well? Sales have been sluggish this year.

Although American people talk about fuel economy, they are sensitive to the price of gasoline. They have the natural tendency to like something big and powerful. Therefore, my impression is that demand for technologies specializing in fuel economy, such as hybrid vehicles, would be impacted by the fuel price.

However, in the long run, we must reduce carbon dioxide, and we must increase the attractiveness of products, and hybrid technology has great potential here. Hybrid is a very good technology to make the vehicle more powerful and to increase fuel economy. I think it is important for us to continue refining our hybrid technologies patiently so that we can prepare even better products with more affordability.



What are you doing to make Honda's hybrids more attractive?

We developed a simple one-motor hybrid system called IMA. The key to the success of IMA is how simple it is, how low the cost can be and how it can be made a natural part of the vehicle's system. I want to grow this technology as the most efficient, in terms of return on investment, and a technology to improve fuel economy.

We are also developing a hybrid system for larger-size vehicles with a goal to make it contribute not only to fuel economy but to the attractiveness of the products. The concept for this hybrid is significantly different.



You are introducing the larger hybrid system in 2012. What percentage of your global sales volume will be hybrid vehicles by 2015?


Maybe around 10 percent by 2015. Even after the bigger hybrids, sales aren't going to grow exponentially. The conventional gasoline engine will remain the mainstream. The volume for large-sized vehicles is not so large to begin with, so applying hybrid there won't bring about major change. The small-sized IMA system will remain the contributing factor.

If you look to 2015, I don't think there will be that much of an impact from rising fuel prices or more stringent regulations. But by around 2020, the social situation surrounding the market may be different, and probably carbon dioxide regulations will be made even more stringent.



How big is a big hybrid in Honda's view?

A hybrid system suitable for the class of vehicle equipped with a V-6 engine is called large size. Obviously, we will further advance the conventional V-6-equipped vehicles for more power and fuel efficiency. But by adding a hybrid model, we will add a more powerful and more fuel-efficient option.



Honda also plans to overhaul its gasoline engine and transmission lineup starting in 2012. What are the key improvements?

Our products must impress customers with great engines, and thus, that is how we are developing our vehicles. But we are not ready to unveil what we are doing. It is a fact that we are accelerating the development of hybrid technology, where we were slightly behind, because it is a must-have item for the next era. However, hybrid sales will probably be only 10 percent of sales by 2015. Therefore, there is no doubt that the advancement of the conventional engine is important for our business.



What are your plans for positioning the Acura brand?

We are having a lot of discussions about Acura and which way it should be going. And what we confirmed is that the brand direction should be smart premium, not top tier.

Among the technologies we have at Honda, we must apply those that symbolize our advanced performance technology and environmental technology. We call this "smart." We agreed that smart premium is what we should be targeting with Acura, not the upper-segment vehicles such as Lexus or Mercedes-Benz. We must apply advanced technologies which make our vehicle more fun to drive, achieve a more comfortable drive and high environmental performance.



How is the stronger yen affecting Honda, and what are you doing?

The best risk-hedging approach is to establish a business structure focused not only on the United States and Japan but also on utilizing other production sites worldwide, meaning the rest of Asia, China, South America and other areas. Build a system where all those production sites complement each other with some of their local specialty products and locally sold products.

When you think foreign exchange rates, you need to take into consideration the yuan vs. the yen, the yen vs. the dollar, the baht vs. the dollar and so on. Traditionally, we have been concerned mostly with the U.S. dollar vs. the yen. But the proportional weight of those transactions in our global sales volume is getting lower.



Does that mean you might be importing more vehicles or components to Japan?

We have no definitive plans to do that, but we have imported vehicles before. About 15 years ago, we imported the Accord wagon from the United States. This was not due to foreign exchange considerations. It was done more to complement local products.

None of our plants has recovered to full production since the Lehman Brothers collapse and global financial crisis. The U.S. plants are probably at around 80 percent of capacity. Japan is probably around 70 percent to 80 percent. The same applies to other production sites in Asia except for China, which is operating close to full capacity.

Since the financial crisis, none of the sites have been overwhelmed by demand in excess of their capacity. Depending on how the foreign exchange situation continues, it is possible that we could import cars into Japan. This is nothing new to us. We have done this in the past.



What adjustments do you see in your U.S. production footprint in the near term?


The foreign exchange situation has the potential to change very dramatically, when we least expect it. It is very difficult to deal with. Currently, both Japan and the United States have excess production capacity. So if the foreign currency situation continues like this, there is a possibility that there could be a gradual shift of production to the United States. But I have no intention to bring about any sudden, dramatic changes.

What may be possible, for example, is this: We now produce the Accord in Japan and export some to the United States and other countries. But perhaps the portion that is going to other countries may eventually be sourced from the United States. That's something we are thinking about. It would also be good for the United States.



What change would you most like to see in the U.S. dealer network?

We have a good, strong U.S. dealer network, so I'm not thinking of changing anything specifically for 2011, 2012. What's most important is finding out and taking in what U.S. customers really find attractive in products, be it affordability or other features. We need to reinforce that in the early stage and build that into our products to further strengthen our brand identity. That is our first priority.
discuss
 

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Great find Bizzy! Affordability I think is the key issue and I hope they don't change there engines to much. Granted they are the same basic design since the 80's but it is what made there reliability legendary and as the saying goes if it is not broke, don't fix it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
someone commented on that article saying something about the reliability of Honda and how other companies are catching up...

i agree with that b/c Honda was known for a really reliable product... and now everyone is getting pretty good with reliability these days except for a few (see German cars :giggle: )... so i think the next step should be building NEW tech that far surpasses other companies... the reliability is a given really...
 

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I agree with you however anytime you do a major design change there is always "start- up issues". Sure they do road testing and probing but nothing substitutes for real world experience. MINI for example tested there car all over the world in different environments and situations and in the end it turned out to still be a POS. Now the 07's and up are much better but they are still having issues.

I would like Honda to get away from the rubber timing belt- that is outdated.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Honda hasn't used belts in a while... they all run on chains as far as i know... thinking, thinking, thinking, yep, no belts anymore across the entire lineup, Acura included... the last to see the change were the J-series V6 engines and if i'm not mistaken 2007 Accord was the last year for those belts... so everything from Honda +2008 uses a timing chain... the k-series engines and the f-series in the S2000 always used chains so Honda has been using chains since at least 1999 (first S2000) to my knowledge...
 

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I agree with you however anytime you do a major design change there is always "start- up issues". Sure they do road testing and probing but nothing substitutes for real world experience. MINI for example tested there car all over the world in different environments and situations and in the end it turned out to still be a POS. Now the 07's and up are much better but they are still having issues.

I would like Honda to get away from the rubber timing belt- that is outdated.
lol
 

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Honda hasn't used belts in a while... they all run on chains as far as i know... thinking, thinking, thinking, yep, no belts anymore across the entire lineup, Acura included... the last to see the change were the J-series V6 engines and if i'm not mistaken 2007 Accord was the last year for those belts... so everything from Honda +2008 uses a timing chain... the k-series engines and the f-series in the S2000 always used chains so Honda has been using chains since at least 1999 (first S2000) to my knowledge...
Ok, thats cool then. I was just going off of my wifes '02 Civic because we changed hers two months ago. I am all good then!:thumbsup::hi5::hyper::woowoo::spaz:
 

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Honda needs to give up the one trick pony of IMA being simple and low cost. The term most of the public will use is inferior: as in not competitive against full hybrids.

Meanwhile even if it is lower in costs per vehicle Honda doesn't reflect that enough to make it worthwhile. Civic Hybrid like the car I had now cost more than a Prius. If the cost of IMA is so low then Honda just give us an EX trim level Civic Hybrid for $21,000. And perhaps an entry level LX trim for $19,990. Drop the price on the Insight to $17,000 for the LX with the EX leading at $19,000.

To bad with the value of the Yen this won't happen...
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
IMA is farrrr superior to other full hybrid systems on highway driving... ask anybody that's driven hybrids for any length of time and they'll agree...

as far as value, it's the same thing they advertise for Acura but they just don't say it in commercials... what they mean is that the cost-to-benefit ratio is greater for the IMA than a full Hybrid... IMA is cheaper to make and modify to work on the car than a full-hybrid and the results are better than the cost for it... but of course ppl look at it like them making their money back in a year or two or three and not looking at really long-term life of the vehicle... but of course as with Acura, nobody sees the value b/c Honda doesn't stress it like they should...

i think your pricing is absurdly low for a hybrid... there HAS to be some premium on having a hybrid otherwise it wouldn't be worth buying their gas-powered cars... a good example of this is LED light bulbs in your house... right now you can get a standard bulb for like $2-$5 and the same size LED bulb is like $40-$50 for ONE bulb... yes, the regular bulb is cheaper and widely available but you're gonna have to change it more often and they use more electricity... justifying a $40 bulb is a lot harder to do than a $20k hybrid IMO...
 

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Hmm I think a line from Other People's Money could apply here:

You know, at one time there must've been dozens of companies making buggy whips. And I'll bet the last company around was the one that made the best goddamn buggy whip you ever saw. Now how would you have liked to have been a stockholder in that company? You invested in a business and this business is dead. Let's have the intelligence, let's have the decency to sign the death certificate, collect the insurance, and invest in something with a future.
IMA isn't dead but in its current use it's irrelevant. It can't compete on the EPA tests, can't compete most auto reviews, and thanks to the gap between the Dollar - Yen IMA hybrids are expensive to import. Toyota can get away with some leeway on the Prius because they now build them in California but Honda can't even compete. We can both agree that IMA has some benefits on the highway but it doesn't show up in marketing or tests then consumers have no reasons to consider Honda.

Honda Civic Hybrid:
Browse All Honda Civics | Fuelly

Browse All Toyota Priuses | Fuelly

One has to only review real world averages to find the Prius is a better platform for fuel economy. It makes sense. With the Prius you’re doing well both city and highway, for the Honda your only managing that on the highway. That's why you see a gap for the Civic. 45+ folks who drive mostly highway and under 40 mpg folks who drive more urban commutes. Now if either these vehicles cost the same or the Toyota is less it doesn't make much of a case to consumers to consider the Honda.

2011 Honda Civic Hybrid Overview - Official Site
Also IMA has lost much of its highway benefit. The Civic Hybrid dropped to 43 mpg highway down from 45 due to the newest round of updates that cause more aggressive battery regeneration. This is to solve problems with failing batteries.


I think IMA has potential - especially if applied correctly in performance cars. Can you say IMA SH-AWD TSX or IMA TL-S :thumbsup:

Honda just needs to stick IMA to the role of performance/heavy duty vehicles and finish up with the all new hybrid system in development for smaller cars. Or diesels...... Just saying... I hope people at Honda read forums....
 

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I think that most hybrids are a short term solution to get better economy, to give the industry/infastructure time to develop/evolve so that are not reliant on the finite reserve of oil.

only honda are publicly developing an alternative - hydrogen fuel cell car.

The IMA system has relative low development cost, which can be recovered during the life of hybrid and not disrupt the development of next generation of engines. Whilst producing drivable cars.
 

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All I know (someone who has owned 15 Hondas) is that Honda needs to pay attendtion to Hyundai. The new Sonata from the base model to the Hybrid version are some nice cars. Better quality, longer warranty, better MPG and a better (yet to be proved) Hybrid system in my opinion. It's good that Honda understands that Hyundai is a real competitor. The sales of the Accord have been murdered by the Sonata.

That's not the end of it either, the new Elantra is coming and it looks to be pretty stiff competition with the Corolla and Civic. 40 mpg in non-hybrid form.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
All I know (someone who has owned 15 Hondas) is that Honda needs to pay attendtion to Hyundai. The new Sonata from the base model to the Hybrid version are some nice cars. Better quality, longer warranty, better MPG and a better (yet to be proved) Hybrid system in my opinion. It's good that Honda understands that Hyundai is a real competitor. The sales of the Accord have been murdered by the Sonata.

That's not the end of it either, the new Elantra is coming and it looks to be pretty stiff competition with the Corolla and Civic. 40 mpg in non-hybrid form.
you know, i've been saying this ever since the argument that "Hyundai is a real competitor now" rubbish has been floating around the web...

Honda is getting either equal or just under Hyundai's ratings with their OLD MODELS and not just old models, but old technology... think about it... Ford estimated that with DI (Direct Injection), it helped their engines see a 30% increase in FE (Fuel Efficiency)... Hyundai is using DI engine as well as 6-speed auto transmissions and are just barely getting past Honda... i think when Honda releases DI engines (hopefully they're working on them) and 6/7-speed auto-transmissions or CVT's as a standard trim, we can expect the already 34mpg Accord to get closer to 40mpg... and that's the Accord, imagine what the Civic will bring...

as for the Hybrid part... again, Honda is still using their mild-hybrid drivetrain whereas everyone else is using full-hybrid setups... but somehow they're still beating EPA and other cars that are rated at higher mpg #'s...

so what am i saying... wait for Honda to come out with a better ICE hopefully with DI and pair that to a full-hybrid setup with a really efficient CVT transmission... i could easily see a +50mpg combined Accord Hybrid... and of course Acura will get +35mpg figures on their cars as well...


lets stop comparing these 3-5 year old Honda's with brand new 2011 models that are coming out... apples to apples ppl...
 

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Our CR-Z hybrid gives the pleasant thought of the IMA easing gas consumption for acceleration with its assist using energy stolen from the brakes one or two traffic lights ago. The battery energy reservoir has been around for many years and still not very popular. Porche has an interesting energy storage and recovery system planned for the future 911, an idea probably older than hybrid electric cars, where some of the braking energy normally lost from slowing or stopping the car is stored in the rotational energy of a special flywheel, which I assume it's not the engine's flywheel.
 

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All I know (someone who has owned 15 Hondas) is that Honda needs to pay attendtion to Hyundai. The new Sonata from the base model to the Hybrid version are some nice cars. Better quality, longer warranty, better MPG and a better (yet to be proved) Hybrid system in my opinion. It's good that Honda understands that Hyundai is a real competitor. The sales of the Accord have been murdered by the Sonata.

That's not the end of it either, the new Elantra is coming and it looks to be pretty stiff competition with the Corolla and Civic. 40 mpg in non-hybrid form.
I agree 1,000%
The thing with BOTH Hyundai and Kia is their design, it's stunning
The only decent thing looks-wise Honda has right now to me is the CR-Z, all their other models are bland, or worse, unattractive.
Hyundai and Kia on the other hand, they are sexy, attractive, inspired, fresh, clever, hot... I could go on and on with descriptive words, but the key is, they are all complimentary, where as Honda gains words like boring, stale, uninspired, ugly... and that is not to even mention the uninspired engines they make nowadays!
 
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