Honda CEO to Speed Up Hybrid Plans

Joshua Duval
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Honda's new CEO, Takanobu Ito, said during his first public appearance as Honda's CEO today that his company would speed up the introduction of hybrid cars to better meet the expectations and demands of customers.

"Bringing hybrids quickly to customers will be a major focus of our activities," Ito said. "I want Honda to be a speedy company."

Ito took the helm of Japan's number two automaker last month, amidst an economic recession that has only just barely left Honda profitable. Of Japan's top three automakers, Honda was the only one to escape a loss last year, and it is currently predicting a 95 percent drop in operating profits for the fiscal year ending in March 2010.

Ito's push to introduce new hybrids more quickly would position Honda to be ready to take advantage of a public that is being perceived as more desiring of "green cars" - once the economic recession is over. Its Japanese and American rivals, in particular, will likely be strained to find the research dollars to match Honda's hybrid push.

Ito also confirmed that the CR-Z hybrid sports car is under development and scheduled for release in 2010, and that virtually all of Honda's former Formula One engineers are now working on hybrid development.

One specific program that Ito wants to see fast-tracked is the development of a new hybrid system for midsize and larger vehicles, which uses two electric motors instead of the single motor presently used. The new hybrid system is meant to replace the clean diesel engines that Honda was developing but has currently shelved. Ito would not say when the new system would be ready.

Honda faces stiff competition in the years ahead, as several major automakers introduce their hybrid technologies. Chevrolet is scheduled to start selling the 2011 Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid electric hatchback in the fall; Nissan will begin rolling out its own mild hybrids (it was previously sourcing its hybrid technology from Toyota); and Chrysler will roll out a plug-in electric hybrid minivan.

Source: Automotive News

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