Honda, That Green-Eyed Monster?

Martin Schwoerer
by Martin Schwoerer
honda that green eyed monster

For some companies, the ongoing financial crisis will be fatal, but for others, it may turn out to be a historical opportunity to re-define themselves. When weak brands disappear, others can fill their niche. Honda, for one, seems to be one of the first car makers to seize the opportunity that the industry’s re-structuring is providing. “Where we want to be by 2015 is the environmental leader. I mean that in a credible sense, not a greenwash sense,” Chris Brown, the head of marketing for Honda Motor Europe, told The Guardian. Which is easy to say, although Brown says Honda does support an eco-rating system to prevent misleading environmental advertising claims. But the first step in this branding conversion was announced last week, when Honda said it would be terminating its Formula One activities and re-assigning its F1 engineers to work in eco-technology. Egads! Is Honda about to put all that talent towards becoming the car for the dour, anti-car league? Honda is directing its $150m+ ad budget for Europe and Africa towards addressing this question. As Brown puts it, “We want to change the conversation completely. At the moment everything is heavy-handed, preachy and overwhelming. We want it to be positive, optimistic, joyful, powerful.”

Making Greeniness (Treehuggism?) a car company’s main focus might sound radical, but I actually think it is eminently sensible. Most people are not like us: they don’t feel they need a sporty, luxurious or ostentatious car. A sizeable minority wants to drive a pleasant, reliable, responsive vehicle that has a small-as-possible ecological impact. In the past, Volvo may have tried to occupy this space in the car-driver’s mindset, but was too inept in the follow-through. Toyota currently defines “follow-through” when it comes to hybrids, but at what cost? Premium-gargling pistonheads will feel regret when a former sports brand re-defines its focus to cater to Bobos. From a branding point of view however, focus is king. And if those out-of-work F1 guys are working on the CR-Z, the “positive, optimistic, joyful, powerful” stuff might just have a chance.

Join the conversation
2 of 34 comments
  • Stein X Leikanger Stein X Leikanger on Dec 13, 2008

    NASCAR sponsors hit by sticker shock - NYTIMES:

  • Martin Schwoerer Martin Schwoerer on Dec 15, 2008

    Everybody, thanks for your interesting comments! I was more or less on the road over the weekend and was not really aware this piece would be published when it was. I have nothing to add at the moment, but I appreciate the lively debate. Just one thing to folkdancer: Bobo is marketing lingo and refers to a perceived class of consumers, the "bourgeois bohemian", i.e. artsy (-fartsy) people with money. It was silly of me to use jargon without explanation -- sorry about that. I do hope nobody thought I meant "Bobo" as in "Jamaican slang for cannabis", or "A common nickname for Boise, Idaho", or as "portuguese slang for Fellatio".

  • Dusterdude The "fire them all" is looking a little less unreasonable the longer the union sticks to the totally ridiculous demands ( or maybe the members should fire theit leadership ! )
  • Thehyundaigarage Yes, Canadian market vehicles have had immobilizers mandated by transport Canada since around 2001.In the US market, some key start Toyotas and Nissans still don’t have immobilizers. The US doesn’t mandate immobilizers or daytime running lights, but they mandate TPMS, yet canada mandates both, but couldn’t care less about TPMS. You’d think we’d have universal standards in North America.
  • Alan I think this vehicle is aimed more at the dedicated offroad traveller. It costs around the same a 300 Series, so its quite an investment. It would be a waste to own as a daily driver, unless you want to be seen in a 'wank' vehicle like many Wrangler and Can Hardly Davidson types.The diesel would be the choice for off roading as its quite torquey down low and would return far superior mileage than a petrol vehicle.I would think this is more reliable than the Land Rovers, BMW make good engines.
  • Lorenzo I'll go with Stellantis. Last into the folly, first to bail out. Their European business won't fly with the German market being squeezed on electricity. Anybody can see the loss of Russian natural gas and closing their nuclear plants means high cost electricity. They're now buying electrons from French nuclear plants, as are the British after shutting down their coal industry. As for the American market, the American grid isn't in great shape either, but the US has shale oil and natural gas. Stellantis has profits from ICE Ram trucks and Jeeps, and they won't give that up.
  • Inside Looking Out Chinese will take over EV market and Tesla will become the richest and largest car company in the world. Forget about Japanese.