2003 Tokyo Motor Show, Part I by Joseph Szczesny (10/27/2003)
Honda's trio of concepts, next Miata and $ versus yen.
Honda has built a reputation for building high quality cars prized by consumers for their dependability. Building on its expertise as an engine maker, it's also developed a reputation for building some of the most fuel-efficient and cleanest vehicles on the road.
The Japanese automaker wants to makes sure buyers for whom safety is the top priority in a new vehicle will think of Honda first in the years to come. "Honda is actively challenging itself to be the industry leader in both environmental and safety technology," Takeo Fukui, Honda's president and chief executive, said recently.
Fukui noted Honda already has made significant new investments in safety-oriented research. It's spent more than $60 million on vast new crash-test center at its research and development center in Tochigi, Japan in the countryside north of Tokyo. In addition, Honda also has spent another $30 million at its Automotive Safety Research center with seven advanced safety testing laboratories, including the world's most sophisticated high-resolution crash barrier block and the world's first pitching crash test simulator on the campus of Honda R&D Americas in Raymond, Ohio.
Safety for everyone
Hirohide Ikeno, president of Honda R&D Americas Inc. said the research conducted in Ohio will play a critical role in the evolution of Honda's “Safety for Everyone” concept. The goal of Safety for Everyone is to develop top-level occupant protection for all Honda and Acura vehicles regardless of size or price, Honda officials said.
In addition, Honda wants to make its vehicles less aggressive so they inflict less damage on other vehicles and provide better protection to pedestrians in an accident, they added.
"We want to provide all our customers with top level safety for all vehicles, regardless of size or price," said Koichi Kondo, president of America Honda Motor Co, Inc. "This new commitment puts Honda in a clear leadership position on a number of safety fronts."
Thomas Elliot, American Honda Motor Co., said the ultimate goal is add to Honda's reputation by equipping its cars with very latest in safety innovations. The goal is to make Honda a byword for safety like Volvo is now, he suggested.
Kondo last week announced several steps to upgrade the standard safety equipment on almost all of its vehicles in the next couple of years. All Honda and Acura vehicles, with the exception of a small number of specialty vehicles, will get front side airbags, side curtain airbags and anti-lock brakes as standard equipment before the end of the 2006 calendar year, he said.
In addition, all Honda and Acura light trucks, including all SUVs and minivans, will be equipped with Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) and rollover sensors for side curtain airbag deployment before the end of the 2006 calendar year.
Kondo said Honda's Advanced Compatibility Engineering body structure, offering enhanced occupant protection with reduced aggressivity toward other vehicles, will be applied to all new vehicles over the next six to seven years.
The 2005 model Honda Odyssey minivan and Acura RL sedan will be the first U.S. models furnished with this new technology. The design also helps reduce the potential for misalignment with the frame of the opposing vehicle, Kondo said.
Honda's new small cars, designed with help of the tests conducted in its new test centers, are being developed so the occupant compartment can withstand a collision with larger vehicles. The tests done at the crash test center in Tochigi show that it is possible to develop a unibody strong enough to protect the occupants in lighter weight vehicle that is struck by a heavier vehicle, Honda officials said.