Exports Drive Honda Move to Garmin Navigation

CINCINNATI – Honda’s culture has been one of self-reliance, with as much vehicle development as possible done in-house.

But for the navigation system for the ’16 Pilot CUV, the automaker is eschewing its own homegrown design for embedded satellite-linked navigation from Kansas-based Garmin.

“We’ve been doing our own navigation development for awhile,” Pilot Chief Engineer Marc Ernst tells WardsAuto at a media drive for the CUV. “And it’s part of a Honda (directive) where we just wanted to do it ourselves. But there’s a limit to the amount of things we can do.”

The supply deal with Garmin, which counts FCA US as another automotive customer, was dictated, not surprisingly, by the need to rein in costs.

As Honda is increasingly exporting from its North American plants, the overseas markets receiving those vehicles are requesting local maps.

“We say, ‘If we have to develop navigation for your country, it is millions for us to develop all the maps’…as we’re trying to do it by ourselves,” Ernst says.

Honda picked Garmin over competing suppliers because it had mapping data available on more countries than other firms as well as for ease-of-use reasons, he says.

Current Pilot owners have to visit dealerships to obtain a DVD to update Honda’s in-house navigation maps, usually refreshed only every couple of years. But with the Garmin system, a ’16 Pilot owner can go online and download more-frequently updated maps to a USB drive, skipping the dealer visit.

Updates will be free for five years, after which Garmin will charge what Ernst calls a “small fee.”

The Pilot is the first Honda but most likely not the last to have Garmin navigation, as the automaker shifts from a Windows operating system to an Android operating system for its display-audio touchscreens.

“We’re moving towards that Android operating system in the future, so we’re trying to phase it in. And that will allow us to take advantage of Garmin,” Ernst says.

One of the features of the ’16 Pilot’s navigation system is 3-D buildings on maps, which can be an easier way to navigate than using distance-based directions, a Garmin official told WardsAuto two years ago.

“It’s the way I would give directions to you,” Garmin Automotive’s Kip Dondlinger said then. “You don’t have to know what 800 feet (244 m) is.”

Other features of the Pilot’s Garmin navigation system, available on the CUV’s EX-L grade and standard on Touring and Elite grades, includes speed limit signs, freeway signs that have a realistic appearance and real-time traffic rerouting.

Honda further updates its infotainment offerings via a new station-mixing feature with SiriusXM-equipped Pilots.

“You can combine several of your favorite channels onto (a preset) and make a mix,” Ernst says. “It will go from a song on one of those channels and, as soon as it ends, jump to a song on another channel in a random pattern.”

Further, Pilots with SiriusXM allow users to skip back to the start of a song, or possibly the start of a show, as programming can be rewound up to 30 minutes in time on preset stations.

Brief sports highlights, such as news of a home run during a baseball game, also will instantly appear on the display screen of Pilots with the upgraded version of SiriusXM. Ernst says a driver can choose to receive highlights of up to five favorite college or professional sports teams.

The new ’16 Honda Pilot goes on sale in mid-June in the U.S., starting at $29,995 for a front-wheel-drive LX model with a 3.5L direct-injected V-6 and 6-speed automatic transmission. The CUV tops out at $46,420 for the new all-wheel-drive Elite grade with the same engine but a 9-speed automatic from supplier ZF.

Destination and handling of $880 is not included in the above prices.

The Pilot continues to be assembled at Honda’s Lincoln, AL, plant.

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