While speaking at the Detroit Auto Show yesterday to unveil the production version of the new CR-Z coupe, Honda CEO Takanobu Ito announced that Acura will be adding hybrid models. Ito gave no further insights as to timing or which vehicles would get the hybrid drivetrains, but we're going to guess that the TSX and TL sedans would be the first recipients of the new system. However, when we spoke to Ito last fall in Japan, he did say that Honda was developing a hybrid system suitable for larger vehicles. It's not clear how much it will differ from the architecture of the current IMA mild hybrid system used in the Civic, Insight and CR-Z. We do expect that it will use lithium ion batteries from the joint venture that Honda has with GS Yuasa. A copy of Ito's remarks is after the jump.
2010 North American International Auto Show Remarks by Honda Motor Co., Ltd. President & CEO, Takanobu Ito; and American Honda Motor Co., Inc., Executive Vice President, John Mendel
It's nice to be back in Detroit. I'm excited to be at the show this year as the entire industry continues to fight back against the difficult business conditions. Last year was the 50th anniversary of our business in America. And I want to begin by thanking our customers and the communities where we develop and build our products. This milestone would not have been possible without their support.
Ten years ago, I was working in Ohio at Honda R&D Americas on development of the first generation Acura MDX. This project led us to this Detroit show, because in 2001, our team was honored with the North American Truck of the Year award here at this show. I was also a member of the team that created the aluminum body of the original Acura NSX.
Last year, due to the business conditions and to focus on reducing CO2 emissions, we re-focused some of our product development resources. Now, I'm pleased to say that we will be adding hybrids to the Acura brand. And based on my history in developing several Acura products, I have strong confidence in our ability to advance the Acura brand.
As I look at the market today, at Honda, we have the advantage of being a very global company with strong operations worldwide, including the growing markets of China and Asia. Further, Honda has the advantage of three major business areas – including automobiles, motorcycles and power equipment products. Together, our global makeup and great product diversity provide us strength and flexibility in difficult times, helping us manage the ups and downs of any one market or product segment, while keeping Honda in the black financially.
Our three business lines also make us the leading engine producer in the world. This has provided Honda with tremendous expertise in the area of power plant technology but also a deep sense of responsibility to advance technology in order to reduce CO2 emissions that contribute to global warming.
For engineers, this is perhaps the most challenging time in the history of the auto industry. At Honda, our focus is on being at the very forefront in the area of environment and energy technologies. And we have taken up the challenge to reduce CO2 emissions through the advancement of various electromotive technologies.
We understand electric vehicle technology as well as anyone. Honda developed the EV Plus electric vehicle in the 1990s and leased it to individual customers in California. Now, we are conducting research on a short-distance battery electric vehicle as a "city commuter car." Battery technology continues to be a barrier to mass market use. But we're studying the U.S. market with a view to introducing this commuter car in the future.
We continue to believe that a fuel cell electric vehicle is the ultimate solution to reduce CO2 emissions. A fuel cell car IS a full electric vehicle. But rather than use electricity from the grid, a fuel cell vehicle generates electricity on board and refills more quickly. The development cost must come down and there must be a major expansion of the hydrogen fueling infrastructure. But make no mistake. As a vehicle, the Honda FCX Clarity is ready now. Further, Honda is unique in making long-term investments to develop the refueling infrastructure for alternative fuel vehicles.
This month, we will begin operation of a next-generation solar hydrogen station at our Los Angeles R&D center. This compact system was designed for daily home refueling of a fuel cell electric vehicle. Honda engineers were able to eliminate the compressor entirely to greatly reduce the size of the system to fit in the user's garage. The potential of a solar hydrogen station is one reason a fuel cell electric vehicle is the ultimate eco-car – the best path to reduce CO2.
But in the near term, the most important approach to cut CO2 emissions is expanding the use of hybrid electric vehicles. To increase the opportunity for more customers to choose a hybrid we must be able to meet different needs with family, luxury and sporty hybrid vehicles. We will apply hybrid systems which are compact, lightweight and affordable to a wider range of products in the near future.
It won't be easy to create fun and affordable products that achieve a dramatic reduction in CO2. But we embrace this challenge. Honda is a company that loves creating new things for people. We are working in a comprehensive way dedicated to research and development of next-generation technologies in every field, to create products that bring joy to our customers and lead the way in reducing CO2 emissions.
My first assignment in the U.S. came in the early 1980s. I was a young engineer, developing the chassis for the first generation Honda CRX. You might remember it as the "pocket rocket". I remember CRX as a vehicle that demonstrated that a car can be both sporty and fuel efficient.
Times have changed, but the idea of developing vehicles that are both fun to drive and fuel efficient is alive and well.
Today, it is my pleasure to introduce, for the first time, the production version of a new sport hybrid car that further demonstrates the potential of the Honda hybrid system and our commitment to offer both fun and fuel efficiency in one dynamic package. Thank you.