U.S. unit will get bigger role in Honda plans
NSX and Civic are on the growing to-do list
Honda R&D Americas’ Eric Berkman: He likes to play offense.
Photo credit: JOE WILSSENS
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Honda R&D Americas will engineer and develop the new-generation Acura NSX sports car, the next-generation Civic compact car, and other models, says Erik Berkman, the new president of the vehicle-development subsidiary of Honda Motor Co.
His unit will take the lead in a growing list of global vehicle development projects to help the automaker fend off competitive challenges in North America and to hedge against a strong yen.
Berkman says he was appointed to the position in April in part because he likes to play offense.
"We're now a big company. The question is, do you play it safe, or do you swing for the fences? I like to swing," he said.
The Japanese automaker has been nurturing its North American engineering for the past two decades. But new pressures on Honda and other Japanese manufacturers -- including rising yen values -- is prompting those carmakers to assign new responsibilities to their U.S. operations.
Honda also is under growing pressure from smaller players in the U.S. market, including Nissan North America and Hyundai Motor America. Last year for the first time, Nissan's mid-sized Altima sedan outsold Honda's Accord. Rivals also have been chipping away at the Civic's sales.
"Our U.S. r&d team is taking the next step in our growth toward an even larger responsibility for meeting the needs of our customers in North America," Berkman told an audience here at the Management Briefing Seminars.
He said Honda's Raymond, Ohio, r&d center employs about 2,000 people and could expand in the next few years to accommodate the increased responsibility.
"I'm not saying the scope of our activities is on a par with r&d operations in Japan that were established more than 50 years ago," said Berkman. "But as an organization, our U.S. facilities and the skill level of our engineers have achieved full citizenship in r&d."
You can reach Lindsay Chappell at email@example.com.