This has been a remarkable year for Honda Motor Co. The company has not only been developing futuristic products—at the Tokyo Motor Show 2015 it launched a fuel cell vehicle (FCV), which essentially uses hydrogen as fuel—it also returned to Formula One racing. “Honda’s latest challenges in our constant pursuit of new dreams include our initiatives towards a hydrogen energy society for the next generation, our renewed participation in Formula One that we view as an “experimental laboratory on wheels” to feed back technologies to mass production models, and the start of sales of the HondaJet, a dream we have cherished since the company’s foundation,” says Takahiro Hachigo, President, CEO & Representative Director, Honda Motor Co. In an interaction with members of Indian media in Tokyo recently, he adds that the small cars is an area that Honda is seriously considering for the country. Excerpts:
Honda has launched the FCV Civic Type-R. Can we expect to see more such innovative products in the years to come?
At Honda, we want to become a company where people have high expectations from us and therefore I would like to combine our customers’ dreams with our dreams to develop superior products. Cars such as the FCV Civic Type-R and the NSX, I really feel, will make our customers happy. Given this, we should be coming up with more such exciting products. The electrification technology will be important for future cars.
What role can India play in future product development?
We will work on increasing development capability in India. In fact, Honda wants to enhance its six regional operations systems—North America, South America, Europe, Asia & Oceania, China and Japan. This effectively means that each region will be capable of carrying out its own product development, procurement and sales. In India too, which falls under the Asia & Oceania region, we would like to enhance these functions. For us, India has developed into a growing export hub for components, and although the volumes are small, finished products are being exported to South Africa and other Asian countries from India. If we can increase the competitiveness of finished cars produced in India, there will be ample room for exports to grow.
By when do you hope to achieve such competitiveness in products made in India?
Although I cannot specifically say in which all cars and by when will we be able to do so, our focus is to make the made-in-India cars as competitive as they can get.
Do you think the focus should be more towards small and affordable cars in markets such as India and Southeast Asia?
Our focus is always on the needs of a particular region. If a region is showing strong demand for small cars, we will seriously consider the possibility—be it India or other countries.
In India, Honda has succeeded only with sedans. Now that you are looking at different segments and different types of products for India, can you give us an indication as to what these might be?
As I said, the small cars is an area that we are considering. But we are very cautious. India already has the Mobilio and the then we are planning the BR-V in the near future.
The BR-V is essentially a crossover utility vehicle. When do we see a full-fledged SUV being launched in India?
We have not made any specific plans yet. We would like to continue monitoring the requirement in the market. If viable, we would consider the possibility.
Honda’s ‘premium’ cars in India—the Accord and the Civic—have been discontinued. Do you think it may hamper the premium image that Honda has build in the country over the years?
We will continue to think about the possibilities of these models in India.
While in a market such as India it is important to generate sales numbers and so affordable cars make more sense, can Honda also launch its fun-to-drive cars in the country, such as the NSX or the S660 Roadster?
Although it would be nice to bring such products to India, but given the exchange rate and the fact that these will be CBU imports—and thus priced high—their volume will be extremely limited. So far, we don’t have specific plans to being such cars to India.
Honda has re-entered Formula One. Where do you see Honda’s role in F1, going forward, and what is your commitment towards the sport?
On our re-entry into Formula One, we have not been able to live up to everyone’s expectations. Yes, our engine was new and we struggled in the first half of the season. Heading towards the next season, we are making the necessary improvements. We are happy to see that our young engineers are trying to enhance their capabilities. In fact, we will now focus on combining all our forces, so that we can produce results and positively respond to our fans’ expectations in the next season. Formula One is one of the best ways of building and strengthening a brand, and we will continue to participate in the sport.