TOKYO -- Honda Motor Co.'s product offensive will continue in the United States in the next two years. Honda will launch a redesigned Civic and the Ridgeline SUV this year. In 2006, it will build a new Acura SUV and probably a redesigned Honda CR-V. The company also wants to introduce a car smaller than the Civic.
But Honda has no plans to add a plant in North America, CEO Takeo Fukui says. He was interviewed by Staff Reporter Yuzo Yamaguchi.
You have Honda Civic and Accord hybrids. Are you going to extend a hybrid system to other vehicles?
We have I-4 and V-6 hybrid systems, so we could expand them into a variety of models. We could think of installing a V-6 hybrid system into an SUV or a minivan. We won't deny such a possibility. But for now, we have no plans.
From a technological perspective, I think a diesel could match a large vehicle more than a hybrid. For now, a hybrid system is more advanced than a diesel to be environmentally friendly. Diesel has a long way to go.
Do you have plans for a hybrid SUV?
We're not thinking about it. We may take action on it for the mid-term plan, but for now we have no plans.
Customers. I want to ask them, "Why do you buy a hybrid SUV?" A small number of customers may want it. But an overwhelming number of customers wouldn't care about fuel efficiency. They could shift to a different car if they look for fuel economy.
Don't you need an Acura hybrid?
The Acura brand offers an image of an advanced sporty car. An Acura model wouldn't be a car that seeks fuel economy. A hybrid car is extremely expensive.
Do you plan to remodel the Honda Insight?
It's too early to discuss it. The car offers the top fuel economy in America. We want to keep the top fuel-economy car. So we have no concrete plans.
Are you going to discontinue it? Insight sales have been poor.
No. We're not discussing a full model change. We're not thinking about discontinuing it, either. That's an image car with the top fuel economy.
Are you going to build a new hybrid car to replace the Insight?
We're now working on a fuel cell car. The FCX is based on the EV. What we'll do next is a fuel cell car, not based on an existing model. The r&d unit is working hard on it. We want a four-door fuel cell car soon.
At the previous Tokyo motor show, we showed off the Kiwami concept car. My hope is that we'll build a volume production fuel cell model. Other automakers seem inactive about it. But we're very serious about it.
Are you going to expand cylinder deactivation from the Honda Odyssey and Accord Hybrid to other models?
Yes, we'd like to do that. We'll tell you later which models will use the system. Basically, any vehicle with that type of a V-6 engine can use it.
Would the cylinder-deactivation system match a performance car?
Sure, no problem. When a car needs power, it will get six cylinders. Compared with a hybrid system, that's very inexpensive. We want to use it aggressively.
This year you will launch a new Civic and the Ridgeline SUV. In 2006, you will debut an Acura SUV, now called the RD-X as a concept, and probably a new CR-V. Will U.S. production capacity be enough to build those vehicles?
Vehicles built in Ohio can also be built flexibly in Japan and England. So production in Ohio and Japan would make up for a short supply of each other unless total capacity faces a shortage. If a new CR-V becomes so hot in the United States that production in Japan and Ohio for the model is short, then we could ship it from England.
Will you build another plant in North America?
No. We're not thinking about it for now.
You will have a small car below the Honda Civic in 2006 for the United States. What is the target for this compact car?
The Civic has become bigger every time it was remodeled. Ten or 15 years ago, the smallest model was a three-door Civic. But now we don't have such a car, so we want a car like the old Civic. We'll need a compact car more in Canada than in America, where various cars, including Korean cars, are getting in.
So we won't focus only on Generation Y. When we take a serious look at our models, we know that we have a near-global car. I can't name it, though. We're thinking about shipping it from Japan to North America. That car has been globally received. That was originally built mainly for Japan and Europe. The car has a strong reputation in Asia and China.
The Acura SUV, called the RD-X as a concept at the Detroit auto show, will come under the MDX. Will the Acura SUV share a platform with the CR-V?
If we say the vehicle will use the same platform as the CR-V, that would cause misunderstanding. Basically, the platform will be different.
Will the Acura SUV be powered by a four-cylinder engine or a V-6?
We haven't made an announcement about a powerplant for the vehicle yet. That model should be further sporty, compared with a Honda model. It will also be an urban all-wheel drive.
What is the status of the HSC, a concept shown at the Tokyo auto show, to replace the Acura NSX? You said you would launch it within two years.
We may have to change the plan for various reasons. So it won't be launched within two years. We need a huge investment on r&d and production, and we are becoming more cautious about the plan than before.
You may e-mail Yuzo Yamaguchi at