TOKYO -- Honda Motor Co.'s top executive for North America says Americans still favor small cars and good fuel economy, despite a recent boom in pickups that has fueled Detroit 3 market share gains.
To match that demand, Honda will deploy one of its Earth Dreams direct-injection gasoline engines in its Civic small car, confirmed Tetsuo Iwamura, executive vice president and regional director for the company's biggest market.
"Gasoline prices are stabilizing in the mid-$3-a-gallon range, and Detroit is selling quite a few pickups," Iwamura said. "Yet while the average person sees those numbers, their income hasn't risen that much. It's wrong to say Americans don't care about fuel economy. They care."
Honda, bringing out a redesigned Fit small car in Japan this fall, eventually will upgrade its Civic compact sedan with Earth Dreams technology to deliver better fuel economy, Iwamura said.
The Earth Dreams suite of technologies, unveiled in November 2011, encompasses four new gasoline engines with direct injection and double-overhead cams, a turbocharged diesel engine, three redesigned continuously variable transmissions and three new gasoline-electric hybrid powertrains.
But an Earth Dreams engine has yet to be installed in the bread-and-butter Civic. That car was freshened in a rush for the 2013 model year after its 2012 redesign was panned. It faces steeper competition this year from an overhauled and sportier Toyota Corolla.
Iwamura said the Earth Dreams upgrade for the Civic would come when the car is re-engineered or redesigned, not when it gets just a freshening.
He declined to say when it will come. But Iwamura said cars are re-engineered typically every two years or so. That could put an engine swap on schedule for the 2015 model year.
"We'll be doing it for the Civic. The Civic has to evolve," Iwamura said. "But we have to consider what timing works best."