Honda Engineers And US Execs Agreed: The CR-Z Shouldn't Have Been Built

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
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honda engineers and us execs agreed the cr z shouldn t have been built

When the production version of the Honda CR-Z debuted at the Detroit Auto Show, TTAC’s judgment was swift and harsh. Paul Niedermeyer’s piece “Why The Honda CR-Z Is So Ugly And Should Never Have Been Built” met with more agreement than dissent, and with good reason. Even though the hybrid coupe is still months away from going on sale, Honda engineers and dealers are already talking about their misgivings about the project, belying the project’s lack of originality and its poor chances for commercial success. CR-Z Chief Engineer Norio Tomobe describes his struggle to initiate the project to Automotive News [sub].

We had serious doubts about whether this would bring new value. I really struggled for a new idea, and we decided to start over from scratch. The hybrid finally gave us the wow factor.

This also marked the point where Honda’s US bosses started to lose interest in the project.

According to Tomobe, Honda’s US boss Tetsuo Iwamura “derided” prototypes of the car, but was eventually overruled by then-R&D boss (and current CEO) Takanobu Ito. He characterizes Iwamura’s concerns as follows:

In the American market, people equate hybrids with the Prius. If the hybrid is sporty, it’s going to confuse the customers and dealers. It’s ironic that the United States was the most vocal in saying they didn’t want the car, but the CR-Z still made its world debut at the Detroit motor show

But what does Tomobe think of the finished product? It needs “more horsepower,” he tells AN [sub], but:

I’m satisfied. This is what the future of sports cars will be for Honda. We are not pursuing absolute maximum speed. What we aim for is a car that is exhilarating to drive.

And with the Type R version Tomobe hints at, Honda might get there. In the meantime, the planned efficiency numbers don’t excatly make a stellar “green” case for the car either. And if this subpar mileage and performance sounds familiar, it’s probably because the CR-Z is largely built around components from Honda’s underwhelming Insight hybrid. According to what AN [sub[ has gleaned from its interview with tomobe, “it has the same engine room, front flooring, fuel tank and hybrid system. The motor, battery and inverter essentially are the same as the Insight’s.”

Honda has all but admitted that the Insight is not up to snuff, and based on this public mea culpa, it sounds like they’re already managing expectations for the CR-Z. Or sabotaging the wee hybrid coupe before it can make a case for itself. Either way, not good.

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • Ricky Spanish Ricky Spanish on Mar 09, 2010

    throw the 200 hp K20 from the Civic SI in that bad boy and let her rip. Or better yet, the direct-injected turbo K23 from the RDX.

  • Accs Accs on Mar 10, 2010

    Man... Honda has bigger issues than this front heavy mess. Accord has serious JENNY-CRAIG problems. Ridge needs to be smothered. Civic needs a better interior and a 3/5dr hatch God.. what happened to Honda from 10yrs ago.

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  • Ted Lulis The Exodus from California is mind-boggling. No surprise from the rectum of the country
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