Last week, in our post on Hyundai’s new DI (Direct Injection) Theta II engine, we questioned Honda’s long-standing engine technology leadership. We also assumed (wrongly) that they would be joining the DI club shortly, given the advantages DI technology affords. Turns out we weren’t the only ones wondering, except that in the case of auto, motor und sport, they weren’t asking it rhetorically, but the person in the know: Honda CEO Takanobu Ito. In an interview with Europe’s leading car magazine (print edition), Ito gave DI a pass with his answer to the question: “Honda was once the leader with its internal combustion engines. Did your competitors overtake you with gasoline Direct Injection?” In classic corporate speak, rather than directly acknowledge DI or his competitors, Ito had this to say:
We have limited resources, and we are concentrating on Hybrids. We want to build the optimal engines for hybrids. And if we’re going to talk about hybrids, we have to talk about the costs for the consumer. Hybrids are very expensive. The fact that our hybrids (Insight) are selling so well in Japan is because of government incentives.
Well, the part about why the Insight is selling well in Japan was refreshingly candid, given its poor sales in the US versus the Prius. Ito goes on to share the dilemma facing Honda (and presumably others) in dealing with tightening efficiency demands and expectations:
One option would be to make cars smaller and lighter. But the consumer will not accept any compromises in comfort. So given the demands to reduce CO emissions and the expectations of continued gas price increases, adopting hybrid technology (further) is simply easier.
Just one problem with that, as we see it: why is Hyundai implementing both DI and hybrid technology?