DETROIT -- Honda Motor Co. Ltd., in a bid to become a leader in car safety, on Wednesday said it will add several safety features as standard equipment on most of its vehicles sold in the United States by the end of 2006.
"Currently, our image is very high in safety standards, right up there with Volvo and Mercedes," said Dan Bonawitz, vice president of Honda's U.S. operations. "We want to make sure we take these steps to stay ahead."
All Honda and Acura vehicles will be equipped with side curtain air bags as well as traditional side airbags and anti-lock brakes by the end of 2006, Honda said. Three low-volume models -- the Insight hybrid car and the Acura NSX and Honda S2000 sports cars -- will be excluded from the program.
Honda will also equip light trucks, including SUVs and minivans, with its vehicle stability assist system to improve handling, and sensors to trigger side curtain airbags if the vehicle is about to roll over.
In addition, to address growing concerns of deadly crashes between large SUVs and smaller cars, Honda will use a new body structure to better protect vehicle occupants while reducing the risks to other vehicles.
Honda's new advanced compatibility engineering structure, which uses a redesigned front-end structure to disperse energy in a crash over a larger area, will be rolled out on all new vehicle platforms over the next six to seven years. The Honda Odyssey minivan and the Acura RL sedan will be the first U.S. models with the new technology.
As part of Honda's concept to offer "safety for everyone," a tagline which may be used in upcoming advertising campaigns, the Japanese automaker will add features to future models that reduce injuries to pedestrians in car crashes. Honda already sells eight models, with U.S. sales of 2 million vehicles, that have pedestrian-friendly features such as breakaway windshield wiper pivots, deformable hood hinges, and energy-absorbing hoods.
Unlike Honda, as U.S. car sales have grown more competitive, some automakers have reduced the amount of standard equipment on vehicles to cut costs and compete on price. Last year, General Motors decided to make anti-lock brakes and side air bags an option on many models, rather than standard equipment.
Bonawitz declined to say how much the safety measures will cost. But Honda may have to raise car prices or cut its profit margins to compensate, he said.
"There may need to be price increases to cover some or part of what we do," he said. "In the long run, we'll sell more cars by providing safety for everyone on the road."