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.

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  • 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".

  • Master Baiter Might as well light 50 $100 bills on fire.
  • Mike1041 At $300K per copy they may secure as much as 2 or 3 deposits of $1,000
  • Sgeffe Why on Earth can’t you just get the torque specs and do it yourself if you’re so-inclined?!
  • Sgeffe As was stated in another comment, the FAA nominee went down in flames. But the NTSB chairwoman certainly didn’t, and she’s certainly not qualified either!Lots of this kind of stuff going on both sides of the aisle—Ben Carson would have arguably made a better Surgeon General than HUD Secretary under Trump, for example.
  • Art Vandelay Interesting, the Polestar 2 I had as a rental utilized Android Automotive which is what GM said it is going to exclusively, yet it still offers Apple CarPlay according to this. Wonder if GM will do the same.