By on September 21, 2012

Honda will bring back an extinct car. In April, Daihatsu killed the last surviving topless kei car. And now, Honda wants to bring it back. This is what Honda CEO Takanobu Ito intimated to me – and a large room full of other reporters – this morning at the Honda HQ in Tokyo. His company will also launch the second generation NSX, will give you a new Civic Type-R for you to Euro-trash while it tries to achieve its goal of becoming the fastest front-wheel-drive vehicle on the Nurburgring. Wait, there is more.

Some allege that Honda has lost the plot compared to its innovative ways of the 90s. This morning in Tokyo, Honda CEO Takanobu Ito explained how Honda wants to go back to its clever roots. Ito is a man in a hurry.

He wants to bring models to market fast. Currently, rolling out a car worldwide did take Honda up to four years. And other carmakers it can take much longer as they still shove outdated tooling to lesser markets like cast-off clothes. Honda wants to launch its cars concurrently in all parts of the world.

For that, cars will be designed concurrently, or, as Ito said, “each region will participate in product development concurrently and at the same level from the earliest stages of development.”

Cars will also be deployed concurrently. Says Ito:

“Currently, rolling out a new model around the world takes two years. If you add another model, we need to give it a one year rest first, then spend another two years. Done the old way, rolling out three models globally would take at least four years. We have been able to shorten this to about half.”

The new concurrent system starts with Honda’s bread & butter car, the new Fit to be launched in 2013, followed by the Honda City and a new small SUV model.

Ito set himself and his company an ambitious goal. He wants to raise global sales to more than 6 million units in 2016, that’s “almost double its current global car sales,” as an impressed Yoko Kubota of Reuters said.

The topless Kei-car won’t contribute a lot of volume towards that 6 million goal, Ito reckons:

“The sports kei market is not large. We already have a product called Beat. To tell you the truth, it was a very difficult business to continue, and it did not contribute significantly to our overall business.”

The pocket roadster will be built nonetheless, because Ito believes ”that our customers would like to see those products.” See, yes. When it comes to buying, rational thinking will kick in, and an NBOX will be sold, or so the Honda calculation goes.

The 6 million goal is even more audacious as Honda is “very much struggling in Europe, and the difficulties are not going to go away soon,” says Ito. In China, Honda plants are back on-line after having been closed during last week’s riots. However, says Ito, “there is a bit of an impact with parts suppliers.” Meanwhile, components from Japan and elsewhere are sitting in customs, waiting for clearance. “We are receiving information that the customs clearance times are getting longer,” Ito said.

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22 Comments on “Honda Wants Back To Old Glory – In A Hurry...”

  • avatar
    Freddy M

    Is this essentially Honda adopting a “One Honda” philosophy? Or is it more like “when Europe releases its new Civic, America will release its Civic at the same time but they’ll still be different?”

    • 0 avatar

      It is similar. Ford still uses a lead plant, then sister plants follow suit. It gives engineering teams a bit of a break – if you get the lead plant correct, the sister plants will be easier due to the shared content being good to go. At least that’s the idea behind it.

      I like Honda’s initiative. Their lead time to market has influenced the industry as a whole.

      Not sure about Bertel’s ‘outdated tooling’ remark. A bit incoherent, in my opinion. OEM owned tooling still has to meet global standards. Sometimes, they are single sourced for a global program (if one market’s tool is found to be not capable). Nothing changes about the required part pedigree.

  • avatar

    “We are receiving information that the customs clearance times are getting longer”

    Not a lot different than, “You have a nice business here Mr. Ito, I’d hate to see something happen to it”.

    Pressure the Japanese companies, who in turn pressure the Japanese government.

    China = Mafia.

  • avatar

    Current Honda driver, former Honda fan, and I have some questions.

    #1. Will the new NSX be mid-engine. I don’t want a Corvette with Acura badge.
    #2. The Accord is a disgusting blob…and it’s massive. Move it into “large” car territory to compete with the Avalon and make a new D-segment car like the Accord’s of the 90’s.
    #3. Acura is a mess. Ugly design and nothing compelling. Make a V8 RWD flagship already.

    • 0 avatar

      “The Accord is a disgusting blob…and it’s massive. Move it into “large” car territory to compete with the Avalon and make a new D-segment car like the Accord’s of the 90′s.”

      What, you mean like the Civic?

      I really wish people wouldn’t get so hung up on badges. You want a car like the Accord of the 90s? Buy a Civic. Want a Civic of the 90s? Buy a Fit.

      • 0 avatar
        Athos Nobile

        Well, I think the City is a better successor to that Civic… in size.

      • 0 avatar

        True. The 1st Gen Accord is smaller than the Fit.

        The current Gen Civic is about the same size as the 5th Gen Accord (mid 90s).

        “But, I’ve got to have a ‘fill in the blank’ and they suck because it is too big”, is goofy, even though the manufacturer makes something with a different name in the size you want.

        1st Gen Accord
        Wheelbase 2,380 mm (94 in) sedan
        Length 4,450 mm (175 in) sedan
        Width 1,620 mm (64 in) sedan
        Height 1,360 mm (54 in) sedan
        Curb weight 945 kg (2,083 lb)

        5th Gen Accord
        Wheelbase 106.9 in (2,715 mm)
        Length 1994–95 Wagon: 187.8 in (4,770 mm)
        1994–95 Sedan & Coupe: 184.0 in (4,674 mm)
        1996–97 Coupe & Sedan: 185.6 in (4,714 mm)
        1996–97 Wagon & V6 Sedan: 188.4 in (4,785 mm)
        Width 70.1 in (1,781 mm)
        Height 1994–95 Wagon: 55.9 in (1,420 mm)
        Coupe: 54.7 in (1,389 mm)
        Sedan: 55.1 in (1,400 mm)
        1996–97 V6 Sedan: 55.3 in (1,405 mm)
        1996–97 LX Wagon: 56.0 in (1,422 mm)
        1996–97 Wagon: 57.4 in (1,458 mm)
        Curb weight 2,855 lb (1,295 kg)

        Current US Civic
        Wheelbase 2,670 mm (105.1 in) (sedan and hybrid)
        2,620 mm (103.1 in) (coupe)
        4,504 mm (177.3 in) (sedan and hybrid)
        4,472 mm (176.1 in) (coupe)
        Width 1,755 mm (69.1 in) (sedan, coupe & hybrid)
        1,435 mm (56.5 in) (sedan)
        1,430 mm (56.3 in) (US hybrid)
        1,397 mm (55.0 in) (US coupe)
        Curb weight 1,177–1,260 kg (2,595–2,778 lb) (coupe)
        1,183–1,270 kg (2,608–2,800 lb) (sedan)
        1,294–1,304 kg (2,853–2,875 lb) (hybrid)

        2nd Gen Fit
        Wheelbase 2,500 mm (98.4 in)
        Length 2009–2011: 3,985 mm (156.9 in)
        2012– & Hybrid: 4,100 mm (160 in)
        Width 1,695 mm (66.7 in)
        Height 1,525 mm (60.0 in)
        Curb weight 1,070 kg (2,359 lb) (JDM)

    • 0 avatar

      200k – if you read the article carefully it can be surmized that essentially Honda is talking of a One Honda a la Ford. If that’s the case I believe a RWD V8 is not even in the cards. Maybe a flagship AWD with a three-sylinder 1.3 engine with double turbos :)

  • avatar

    Hummm. DOn’t see the 6 million mark anytine soon. To due that they need a real A segment competitor. Though Fit is bread and butter in NA and Europe it’s much too expensive in Brazil and other developing markets that are growing. I mean, it’s a good car and all and people would love to buy it but it’s out of reach of the mass of buyers. As the Brio is taking forever to get here, and when it does it’ll be too small to compete with the likes of Sandero, Fox or Palio and too pricey to compete in its real segment (Uno, Gol, March). From my POV I can’t see it unless the company radically changes its ways.

  • avatar

    The Fit is the only Honda that screams out its heritage. I like this approach of restoring the Beat simply because people who want to like and buy Hondas want to see the company make THAT car, even if it’s not the one they want. It’s not necessarily good business sense, but it’s emotional sense. We want to know Honda still has some quirk and funkiness within its corporate structure, even if we can’t own it.

    NSX, fine. But bring back the Integra. A small, light, semi-premium fastback FWD with usable rear seats, clever technology under the hood, a high redline and direct, unmolested handling. I’d buy one.

    • 0 avatar

      I’d definitely buy one of those Integras. I miss my old DA Integra, not fast but always fun and I drove it all over the country without missing a beat.

    • 0 avatar

      There was a time when Honda was the leading F1 engine supplier, a time when no one other than Mr. Ayrton Senna was their handling advisor. They had the CRX, the NSX, the Integra, the Legend. The VTEC was one of the best engines out there.

      I even remember when Mclaren was planning the F1 supercar, and they said Ferrari, BMW and Honda were the only ones capable of delivering a V12 engine that would be good enough for the ultimate supercar.

      That Honda will never come back. They were mad, and we all loved that. Now it’s all in the past.

  • avatar

    I like “Pictures of Ghosn” better.

    • 0 avatar

      Haha, +1 indeed. I think this is the first set of pictures I’ve seen of Ito with his mouth open. Ghosn, well, each picture of him looks like its taken from the candid slow-mo camera on the rollercoaster, plus he’s performing some kind of sign language and wearing an earpiece or mic.

  • avatar

    At least Honda is both acknowledging and at least attempting to address the issue of getting so far away from the company that people like me became fans of (and shareholders in). I hope it works out, but after a long time with Hondas, I wound up defecting last month.

  • avatar

    As one who has owned seven Civics, an Accord, and two Odysseys, I hope that they can get their mojo back but I am not holding my breath.

    Here’s just one small example: 1st-generation Odysseys had an LED CHMSL (Center High-Mounted Stop Lamp). All later-generation Odysseys including the current ones use a single incandescent bulb for the CHMSL. Way to step back into the 1800s, Honda!

    And there are far too many styling elements on the current Odyssey that remind me of a hearse, especially if the exterior color is black. Just stare at the rear quarter glass, or the side door handles for a few minutes, and you’ll get the idea.

  • avatar

    Bringing back the Beat sounds like a great idea, but what honda really needs starts with S end ends with 2000. Longitudinally mount a K24 or the K23 turbo from the RDX and you’ll have a hot car on your hands.

    Sure you may have to retool a chassis and retune a suspension, but the high x-bone frame engineering already exists, and the double wishbone setup at all 4 corners was close to perfect for a stock suspension. All that really needs to be done is fitting a new body that holds more safety equipment to it.

    • 0 avatar

      My thoughts exactly. I recently bought a nice used 2001 S2000. Because it so excellently engineered and satisfying to drive, it serves as a reminder of why I loved Hondas back in the ’80s, ’90s and early ’00s, and why I haven’t loved many Hondas since then.

  • avatar

    Honda wants the good ‘ole days back?! Could it be that Honda’s smugness and arrogance has finally caught up with them?
    – Failing minivan power doors
    – Failing transmissions
    – Engines destroyed by timing belt breakage
    – Noisy and hard riding
    – Dealer monopolies that suck your cash
    – Excessive maintenance
    – Fuel system contamination through rusted filler necks
    Decades ago, Honda appeared so good, simply because the rest were so bad; that’s not the case anymore.

    • 0 avatar
      Polar Bear

      Is this something that comes from the top? I noticed Honda dealers can think rather highly of themselves, as if they were the BMW of Japan and their superiority obvious. I am sorry, but it is not obvious to me.

  • avatar
    Polar Bear

    Honda was supposed to be the Japanese car that was fun to drive, but as reliable as a Toyota. Not as boring as a Toyota. I hope they can get their spirit back. If they don’t I am doomed to drive a Camry for the rest of my life.

  • avatar

    Ito-san is right. They have to do something, before last Honda fanatic is dead. However, what about European Accord? It may sell not well, so it must be improved, not canceled (even if it very fine anyway). Last decade Honda has killed more great cars, than was able to introduce. This is not Honda way. This is stupid way.

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