TOKYO - Honda Motor Co. engines and engine techology soon may be powering General Motors cars.
During the Tokyo auto show, Honda President Hiroyuki Yoshino said his company is discussing engine development deals with GM and Ford Motor Co.
'We are talking, but nothing is decided yet,' Yoshino said.
Engine outsourcing still is considered heresy by some in the auto industry. But outsourcing appears to be gaining wider acceptance as automakers struggle to control the cost of new engine technologies. A spokewoman for Ford declined to comment.
Arv Mueller, GM's vice president of powertrain, said in a statement the GM 'will continue to explore the new business opportunities with a variety of potential partners, but we have nothing to announce at this time.'
A GM source familiar eith the Honda discussions said GM is shopping for multivalve V-6 engine designs, low-friction crak-shafts, variable valve timing systems, and other engine block components for use in future mid-level and luxury sedans.
GM SHOPPING AROUND
These vehicles might include replaements for models such as the Oldsmobile Intrigue and Aurora, the Buick Park Avenue and the Cadillac Catera. The company may buy whole engines, certain components or just blueprints, the source said.
Yoshino previously has said it is possible Honda someday will supply engines to other carmakers. The company is redesigning its engines so that their crankshafts rotate clockwise, the industry standard. That makes them adaptable to most transmission.
However, Honda is only one of several companies holding talks with GM, the GM source said. GM also is shopping at several Japanese automakers, including Toyota Motor Corp., Mitsubishi Motors Corp, and Subaru parent Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., for off-the-shelf engine designs and technologies.
The industry is becoming 'one big inbred family,' the source said. 'Everybody is talking to everbody about everything.'
GM can offer these comapnies the chance to amortize their engine development costs over a much a higher volume of production. This is particularly important for larger displacement engines, which import brands must develop to please North American buyers but which do not sell well in other markets.
Historically, the industry has shown a not-invented-here reluctance to outsource engines. Until now, automakers limited their powertrain purchase to niche products such as diesels or high-performance engines such as the out-of-production Taurus SHO V-8, which was supplied by Yamaha Motor Co. Ltd.
There are signs that attitude is changing. Ford and Toyota have expanded their ties to Yamaha for engine development work, and GM relied on England's Lotus Engineering to help design its new Twin Cam global four-cylinder engine. GM does have some inhouse options for producing a multivalve V-6 in the 2.5- to 3.5-liter range now served mainly by older pushrod engines. None are perfect solutions, however.
The company already builds a 3.5-liter multivalve V-6 for its Oldmobile Intrigue. But engineers say the design, based on Cadillac's Northstar V-8, becomes clunky and inefficient if skrumk to smaller displacements.
GM's European subsidiary, Adam Opel AG, supplies a 3.0-liter multivalve V-6 fro the current Cadillac Catera and Saturn L series. But the unit is costly and hard to scale up to larger displacements because of its narrow, 54-degree V angle. The engine's cylinder banks are too close together to accommodate displacements larger than the 3.2-liter upgrade expected for the 2000 Catera.
A GM vehicle development executive said she is willing to look outside the company for engine components. Anna Kretz, GM's vehicle line executive for large cars, said in August that she doesn't view powertrains as being different from other vehicle systems.
'There comes a time to make a decision,