Sugiyama said Honda prefers fwd because it makes for a lighter vehicle and more tire grip on slippery roads.
Honda uses rwd on two sporty cars, the S2000 and NSX. Honda also has all-wheel-drive technology, though it is derived from the Japan-market fwd Accord.
"There was a time in the past when front-engine, front drive was considered lesser than rear drive because of NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) concerns and driving feel," Sugiyama said. "But today we have the technology to provide excellent high-performance, even though a car might be front drive. Honda feels no crucial need to develop rear-wheel drive."
Honda Motor President Hiroyuki Yoshino has resisted calls for Honda to build a V-8 engine.
For nearly a decade, analysts have predicted Honda's entry into both V-8 and rwd segments because luxury vehicles such as the fwd Acura 3.5RL have fared poorly against its V-8-powered competition.
The trend toward rwd is growing: The Chrysler group will replace the Dodge Intrepid and Chrysler Concorde with rwd cars in 2003. General Motors will revive the Pontiac GTO next year with a rwd car from its Australian subsidiary.
Honda insiders confirm the automaker has gathered reams of market research on V-8s and rwd, but recouping the massive development costs is overwhelming.
A consultant who declined to be named estimated that developing and tooling up both a rwd platform and a V-8 engine family would conservatively cost $2 billion. At that cost, even if Honda sold 100,000 such equipped vehicles a year, it would take 20 years to recoup its investment, the consultant said.
Dan Bonawitz, American Honda Motor Co. Inc. vice president of planning and logistics, agreed that the high costs are a barrier. "There is a significant investment involved, and you have to have the volume to get the return on your investment. The U.S. may have big horsepower V-8 bragging rights, but a lot is changing with the certification of fuel economy standards, the fuel supply and environmental regulations. We need to show other options."