Clearly, though, China has begun to throw its weight around.
It shows in Honda's development of China-only vehicles, such as the Acura CDX and Honda Avancier, two popular crossovers designed for and sold only in China. Engineering such vehicles saps resources that could have been channeled into building a better Accord or Pilot.
It matters because Chinese and Americans want different things in cars.
"American customers value practicality," said Dongfeng Honda's Shimizu, who spent several years working in the U.S. "They drive to work every day. So cars are an essential tool for American people."
Chinese consumers, on the other hand, still see cars as an important status symbol. They're drawn to vehicles such as the Avancier, with fake hood vents and wild fender creasing, whose designs might be considered overwrought and gaudy by American standards.
"Chinese customers are firstly trend-conscious," Shimizu said. "Automobiles are still seen as an asset, not as a tool. They'd like to show off something."
Hachigo likened Honda's strategy to serving up ramen noodles that have the same basic ingredients but using recipes tweaked to local tastes.
"We tell them to use this kind of noodle and let them decide the flavor," he said.
Yet as different as Chinese tastes are, Chinese appetites are getting a bigger voice in determining the flavor of global cars such as the Accord or Civic. In fact, Chinese and American viewpoints butted heads when Honda developed the current-generation Civic.
Market research showed that Chinese buyers wanted a traditional three-box, sedan-shaped Civic, Shimizu said. Americans, however, wanted a fastback, coupe-styled silhouette.
Product planners argued back and forth about which way to turn.
In the end, American tastes prevailed, as seen in the sleek profile that debuted in 2015. But as China's sales grow, its market will have the volume to make ever-stronger demands.