DETROIT -- George Kang admits to getting squeamish when he sees Honda North America Inc.'s new cable ads touting vehicle advancements in pedestrian safety.
The ads show Honda engineers studying in a crash-testing laboratory how Honda vehicles are being designed to give pedestrians a better chance of surviving a collision.
Honda is using the ads as part of the company's "Safety for Everyone" campaign. The automaker began showing the pedestrian safety ads in January on national cable channels such as ESPN and the Discovery Channel.
Kang, director of sales for Edmunds.com., said he is happy to know Honda is focused on safety both in and out of the car. Kang lives in Los Angeles and drives a 2005 Honda Pilot.
But he said he finds the pedestrian safety ad disturbing. Kang witnessed a woman being hit by a car two years ago after stopping on the way to work for coffee.
"When I watched the commercial, my focus was toward a dummy getting hit and laying on the ground," he said. "It is almost disturbing, and it takes away from the focus of the overall safety feature."
Honda wants to be recognized as a leader in vehicle safety of all types, said Tomiji Sugimoto, vice president at the auto technology and research division of Honda R&D America Inc. in Southfield, Mich.
Honda's "Safety for Everyone" campaign aims to make pedestrian protection a marketing advantage.
This fall, new regulations will go into effect in Japan and Europe requiring carmakers to improve the survival rates for pedestrians hit by vehicles.
Automakers are making key design changes to pass the tests. They include sloping front ends, breakaway windshield wiper mounts, front end crumple zones and space between the hood and top of the engine block.
Most automotive manufacturers are expected to meet the 2005 standards with little difficulty.
Honda is the only car company aggressively marketing those advancements in the United States, although no such regulations are on the horizon here.
U.S. regulators are more focused on other safety issues, such as occupant restraint use and the problem of large vehicles hitting smaller ones, Sugimoto said.
In Japan, 30 percent of all automotive-related accidents involve people being struck by a car. In the United States, that number is closer to 11 percent.
While investments in developing pedestrian safety may not make people run to buy a new Honda, Sugimoto said it will make a difference in the long run.
Honda declined to say how much it is spending on its "Safety for Everyone" campaign.
"At Honda we look at society as a whole as our customer," Sugimoto said. "And how we gain the confidence and trust of our customer is important."
Kang said he did not know about Honda's pedestrian safety program when he bought a Honda SUV last November. He said he does not believe it would have influenced his buying decision very much.
Still, he said, it could become another way for Honda to build on the safety reputation the company has built over the years.
You may e-mail Greg Bowens at [email protected]