Honda CEO: "Technology Can Develop as We Get Nearer the Big Mistake"

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
honda ceo technology can develop as we get nearer the big mistake

God I love Google Translate. Where else can you generate Zen koans like the one above, allegedly attributable to Honda CEO Takeo Fukui? OK, it’s not actually a koan. But I sure would like to know what this “big mistake” is gonna be. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports Fukui’s interview with Japan’s Yomiuri. Apparently, the Japanese carmaker’s going to hybridize everything they build, including our ’bro Asimo. I made that bit up, obviously. In truth, Honda’s “considering” introducing gas-electric minivans, sports cars and luxury sedans. If they’re as good as the new Insight, we have two words of advice: don’t bother. Oh, and I think Bloomberg translated the aforementioned techno-statement a little more accurately: “Fukui said it’s a ‘huge mistake’ for merging carmakers to expect cost savings on research and development.” Or anything else for that matter. Not that Fiatsler or their patrons (that’s you!) are listening. Hang on . . . now that I think about it, Google’s translation is actually pretty accurate. Huh.

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  • MikeInCanada MikeInCanada on May 23, 2009

    The picture is filling me with calmness and serenity.... No wait, its the Duty-Free Scotch.

  • Skysharad Skysharad on May 24, 2009


  • Don1967 Don1967 on May 24, 2009

    Sounds like Google Translate is adept at spotting Freudian slips. Honda rose to prominence by building reliable, efficient, simple engines whose technological goodness was baked-in to the core. Not tacked-on. For a company like this to suddenly embrace "hybrid technology", which is by definition a garbage can of old ideas bolted together, would indeed be The Big Mistake. Honda need not look any farther than its two most fuel-efficient models to see where its future lies. The Fit is a popular little go-kart, whereas the Insight is a crappy little golf cart. Stick to the former, and let Toyota take care of the latter.

  • T2 T2 on May 25, 2009

    --don1967 if you may lend me your ear, when describing smaller vehicles as golf carts or go-karts you're kinda' in danger of killing your arguments on TTAC threads and unlikely to win friends and influence people here. Though I value your opinion, and furthermore I appreciate that you are not seeking to win any popularity contest, that terminology applied to successful vehicles, however, will have you come off as a "poor loser" type. I examined the Fit with its configurable interior some years ago when they first came out. Recently I got a ride in one and the interior design in the 2008 is not too shabby. The downside is these flexibility upgrades make the vehicle heavy and ruin the performance in spirited driving, as they say. Same thing for the Yaris. Currently I happen to be driving a 2dr Echo sedan which impresses me with its 8.5 secs to 60mph capability in 2nd gear. Until a few years ago sport sedans equipped with V6's were hardly much better LOL. This is a performance from a small car of which some people are unaware, until I've dusted them off that is ! Some of them deserved it - having the nerve to changeup while attempting to take me on the inside. Any VVT-i engine with DOHC and offset crankshaft setup will provide a higher torque and maintain that torque almost to redline. So if a challenger dares to dilute their torque by an early upchange they will have deserved their place in the other guys rear mirror. Honda is in trouble with their hybrid program. First, they put out a 2-seater vehicle (Insight) where the share of this segment is barely 2% of Worldwide sales. Discontinued after low sales. Second, they came out with a hybrid version of the V6 Accord whose sales were ordinarily 10% of the Accord's 400,000 US sales. Introduced December 2005 and discontinued June 2007 again for low sales. The problem is that the IMA is not a particularly brilliant idea in the first place. It seems to me like an idea thought up by mechanical engineers who then brought in some electrical engineers to make it work. But they stacked the deck by using an excellent 1.3L engine design which they won't put in any other non-hybrid model just in case we could use that to find out how lame their hybrid scheme really is. Well, they tell us, you wouldn't want an Atkinson cammed engine in your car because its low end torque is poor. Oh really ? Just so happens lots of us have driven cars with quite low end torques and it never caused any of us to open a window and jump out of a high building. No sir, we just engaged first gear raised the revs and never looked back. But clearly they want to avoid cannibalising their 1.8L Civic sales by a smaller 1.3L version for which they could not charge the Hybrid premium. I think that is the big mistake. I forsee when gas prices rocket up again quite a few people would learn to drive stick to avail themselves of the 50mpg these engines might deliver. From an electrical engineering point of view the Honda IMA has a variable speed electrical drive joined to a mechanical CVT being fed by a variable speed prime mover, the engine. A mechanical CVT happens to be a variable speed drive all by itself since you can feed in a constant rpm on one side and get a variable rpm output from the shaft on the other. In this case the CVT is sized for both the engine and the electrical drive. Also the CVT has to be equipped with a gear for mechanical reverse. That sure is a lot of complication (likewise the Prius) to go to to avoid a series hybrid setup. I am convinced a simple induction motor can replace the CVT and be cheaper. It is interesting that CVTs are no longer used in industrial applications. Haven't been for 40yrs to my knowledge - just too much maintenance and the reliability isn't great either. Moving on, to supply that induction motor we would continue to utilise the IMA generator which is currently sized for 20Hp at 1380rpm. Extrapolating upwards, this same frame size at 7000 rpm would be capable of 100hp. It would use exactly the same amount of copper in the stator winding as before except that the winding would need be composed of fewer turns of much thicker wire. There are some who say that Honda should stick to smaller efficient engines. I think that would be a mistake, other modern processes are seeming to eschew mechanical subsystems whenever possible. Take video camera manufacturing for example. The earlier move away from chemical to tape storage involved the introduction of considerable complexity similar to that which the transition to hybrid cars is requiring today. Tape gave way to removable disc mini-DVD storage, then fixed disk hard drives and finally we are seeing the discarding of rotating memories entirely with the adoption of flash memory card storage. Honda should stay the course while re-organizing their powertrain division, to place electrical engineers in more influential positions, could be beneficial. Importantly someone has to be aware that the Toyota system is scalable and theirs is not and then fix that problem.