Could Honda go back to the future?
Honda Australia says it and a number of other “advanced” markets around the globe are pushing for the development of a greater array of sporty cars, potentially even a revival of iconic coupes such as the Prelude and Integra.
Why is this of note? While there’s nothing locked away in the immediate development pipeline, the more mature markets push for brand-building cars that powered Honda to its once-lofty status, the more likely it is that it will happen.
Speaking with Australian media this week, Honda Australia director Stephen Collins re-emphasised the way the company was seeking to break away from the “beige” product of last decade with cooler offerings, kicked off by the lauded (comparison here) new Civic.
“It’s the same in many other advanced countries, a similar position to us — back in the ’80s and ’90s, there were the Integras and Preludes and these cool-looking coupes,” Collins said.
“And then sporty-wise, the brand lost our way a little bit. But now us and other markets, we want sportier cars.”
Why should we consider this as more than just a bit of marketing fluff?
“At the end of the day, it’s the company’s will to go down the path of sportier cars,” said Collins. “[Honda] president [Takahiro] Hachigo has said he wants to give more freedom to R&D. My memory of the ’80s and ’90s is Honda R&D had a lot of freedom, and that’s when they came up with some pretty damn cool stuff.”
“…over the next few years you’ll see more fruits of that sort of thinking,” he added.
“There has been a lot of discussion about that globally,” Collins said, adding later: “whether we can fill another gap, a $35k sports car, who knows?
“I think it’s obvious we would want that. Right now there’s nothing available, but whether there is in the foreseeable future, I would hope so.”
What form could this potential car take? Might it use elements of the company’s in-development carbon-fibre tub that we know it’s working on? Its new turbo engine family? Front- or rear-wheel drive?
“It’d have to be based in reality, but I’m not sure there’s any mantra about front- or rear-wheel drive… but all those business realities have to be ticked off,” Collins said.
Most importantly, Collins believed the key was to add sportiness to mainstream core products right though the range. The new Civic certainly has a leaner edge, and we understand the new CR-V and Jazz models will as well. As for the brand’s reputation on a general note, the director remains upbeat.
“What I know is, on the rational front, when you think about quality and those types of things, I think we are still right up there and our reputation is very, very good. Where we need to improve is on the emotional side,” he said. “I think, and I’ve said it before, we became a bit beige.”
What do you think about that? Do you appreciate Honda Australia’s candour, and would you welcome a return to the glory days?