Honda to manufacture fewer but better cars

In a statement from Honda HQ, top executives of Honda Motor Co. announced that they will be streamlining their product offerings over the next few years in an effort to ensure the quality of its vehicles. The news came from Takanobu Ito (pictured left), Honda’s Chief Executive Officer, during a two-day test driving event held in Ashikawa in northern Japan. The move will see about a fifth of the current models offered by the auto-making giant being phased out, starting in about three years’ time. This follows a year that has been pockmarked by product recalls and quality problems.

“We want to be more efficient,” Ito said on the sidelines of the test-driving event. “Even though we’re narrowing these down, that doesn’t mean our business would shrink. For instance, the company could keep one model while getting rid of a less popular sister model that shares many product characteristics but has some different features.” Ito declined to be more specific on the actual models to be phased out.

Honda recalled its redesigned Fit (aka Jazz) small car five times in Japan last year and Yoshiharu Yamamoto, who is Honda’s top engineer, believes that the amount of work in the R&D department could be the cause of the recalls.

“My sense is that we need to slash the number of cars we develop by about 20%” said Yamamoto, referring to the various versions developed for each car model to meet the needs of the various markets around the world. He added, “In the end and with so many different specs, you lose the essence of what a Honda car should be. It also puts a big burden on the engineers and it’s inefficient.”

Already Honda has lost market share in some markets that favour larger SUV’s and pickup trucks; recently, sales of Honda cars in the Philippines fell below those of Isuzu, for instance, largely because of the lack of a larger offering and also due to product fatigue, with Honda failing to launch one truly new car last year.

At the end of most years, motoring journalists talk about their favourite new car of the year. For the past few years, very few Japanese-designed or built cars make it into anyone’s top ten list and, frankly, the offerings coming from the land of the rising sun have been bland. One of the few exceptions was the all-new Honda NSX; now, that did whet our appetite…until it burnt out at the Nurburgring, that is. Oops!

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