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article details
Author Jeff Palmer
Categories Japanese Domestic Market
Create Date January 08, 2008 20:26
Last Update January 17, 2008 10:02
HGT Visit

Tokyo Motor Show Week, Day 2 Update - Tochigi and Motegi

Our day began over 13 hours ago and we're not quite done yet. I'm typing this as I relax in a first-class seat on the Shinkansen line, headed back to Tokyo from Utsonomiya, the JR station that's closest to Honda's R&D center in Tochigi (HGT). Once we reach Tokyo (a 50 minute ride on the high-speed rail), we will close our long day with a group dinner at a local yakitori place. Yakitori happens to be a long time favorite for American Honda associates, but what I'm really here to tell you about are our experiences at HGT and Twin Ring Motegi.

The first stop on today's agenda was HGT, Honda's R&D headquarters in Tochigi. Here we were treated to an introductory presentation, followed by a live crash test demonstration, and then we concluded our visit to HGT with a Q&A session with Takeo Fukui, CEO of Honda Motor Co. Ltd. The introductory presentation was heavy on the environmental and safety message, consistent with Honda's corporate mantra during Fukui's regime. The crash test pitted a brand-new US-market 2008 Honda Accord LX sedan against a 2007 Acura MDX, introduced in a 60% offset fashion with each vehicle traveling at 50kph. The results were ugly, to say the least, but the crash test dummies appeared to have emerged with no meaningful injuries. The damage to the Accord's front clip was quite heavy, but the passenger cell of both vehicles remained perfectly intact. The Accord's windshield suffered some damage from the crumpled hood slamming into it, but apart from some very fine glass particles on the dashboard, there was no visible evidence of intrusion of any sort into the passenger cell. Hooray for ACE! In the MDX, there were multiple impact points on the passenger side of the windshield, leading some to worry that the passenger dummy's head somehow connected with the windshield through the airbag, but we were subsequently assured that the fractures in the windshield were actually caused by the deployment of the airbag itself. Everything aft of the firewall on the MDX looked almost pristine, except for the right rear tire which popped off the bead and deflated.

Following the crash test demonstration, the entire group was shuffled back into the conference room where the Q&A session with Honda CEO Takeo Fukui was conducted. Here, there were a number of questions concerning hybrids, plug-ins, the future of battery packs, next generation diesel technology, emerging markets, and other important stuff. Then I raised my hand and requested a status update on the next-generation NSX development. I wish I could tell you that his response spelled out numerous previously unheard details, but it was mostly a reiteration of the same stuff we've already heard: Front engined, rear-biased SH-AWD, V-10, etc... He did mention that they were working very hard to keep the car's weight down and that it would be faithful to the original NSX's "everyday supercar" formula. There was no timeline given and though I mentioned the fact that it had been stated previously (at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show) that there would be a new concept shown at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show, he did not address that issue. So despite recent rumors in the Japanese press, for now, the official company line is that Honda is still working towards their previously mentioned targets. When asked by another journalist if Acura was working on any FR platforms for their sedan products, Mr. Fukui once again referred to the FR SH-AWD NSX successor and suggested that Honda could take what they learned from that development program and apply it to other vehicles. One other question was posed that I found to be interesting, and that was something along the lines of "Mr. Fukui, you have been CEO of Honda for 4-years. In those 4 years, what has been your greatest achievement?" His response was that he had not yet demonstrated any great achievements yet, but he thinks his first great achievement will be a car that will be released in 2-3 years. Though it wasn't explicitly stated, my assumption is that he was referring to the next generation NSX.

(Next page - our visit to Twin Ring Motegi)
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