Released: January 8, 2006
Thank you and good afternoon everyone.
Honda has long enjoyed a special relationship with our customers in America. And we are a better company because of the many challenges we have faced to meet their needs. In 2004, we marked the 25th anniversary of Honda's U.S. production. Last year, we reached the 30-year milestone of Honda research & development in America. And this spring, we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Acura brand.
A few weeks ago, we announced a strategy to bring Acura to Japan in 2008. And Acura will be introduced in China this spring. We are taking these big steps to make Acura a global brand. The Honda and Acura brands will offer their own distinct identities. And all future Acura models ... throughout the world ... will be exclusive to the brand. To achieve this, we will strengthen the structure at Honda R&D in Japan to more clearly focus the development of products for each brand.
We are very confident about this strategy because of the strength of the Acura brand in North America. Acura was born in America as the first Japanese luxury brand. Now, Acura has record sales momentum - last year surpassing 200-thousand units in the U.S. for the first time.
Key to this growth and expansion is that Acura has separated itself from traditional luxury brands ... by offering performance luxury products that take their prestige from advanced technology ... always ahead of the times. Recent examples include Super Handling All Wheel Drive, Real-time Traffic information and a Collision Mitigation Braking System ... each already applied to the Acura RL.
Another key to distinguish the Acura brand is the keen design and packaging of our products. To further enhance this direction, a new Acura design studio will open in California in early 2007 ... close to our existing R&D headquarters. The TL and MDX demonstrate how our U.S. teams can design and develop great products. In this new studio, designers and stylists from around the world will play a lead role in designing future Acura models.
This Acura strategy means that the Honda brand must also have a strong identity. And the Honda brand has never been more clear ... with a focus on "Clean, safe and fun." Importantly, we have created products that achieve all three values.
Honda has always led the way in reducing emissions, advancing fuel economy and developing alternative fuel technologies. Our goal is to provide what Honda engineers many years ago called Blue Skies for our Children. Since then, we have considered it as our responsibility to produce the most environmentally responsible products and technologies possible ... even as we satisfy our customers. Now ... to further advance environmental conservation, I think the entire auto industry must think of "we" - not just "me." Each company must take responsibility and action by continuing to improve every product.
Toward this end, I want to challenge the entire industry, including Honda, to further improve fuel efficiency. So, let's enter a race together. A race for the benefit of all customers and the global environment.
Last year, Honda announced our plan to improve the fuel efficiency of each product line - automobiles, motorcycles and power equipment. We already lead the industry in fuel efficiency. But by 2008, we will introduce a new 4-cylinder internal combustion engine to improve fuel efficiency by up to 13 percent from 2005 levels. And a V-6 engine with new VCM technology will improve basic V-6 efficiency by up to 11 percent over 2005. And we will not stop there.
At the same time, we continue to invest in advanced future technologies. The current Honda FCX is now in use by an individual customer in the real world. And today, we are showing the FCX Concept. This car is very close to the next generation fuel cell vehicle we will debut in 3-to-4 years. In fact, this fall ... we will begin limited driving opportunities with a prototype version of this vehicle.
But ... again ... the auto industry must think of "we" - not just "me." We cannot just develop the vehicle. We must make a commitment to address the fueling infrastructure that will enable our customers to use these cars in the real world. Toward this end, we just introduced Home Energy Station, the 3rd generation of Honda's challenge to provide customers with the possibility to refuel their fuel cell vehicle. It will also generate clean power and hot water for the home.
Importantly, we have shown that environmentally advanced vehicles can also meet advanced safety standards. Honda has completed the initial commitment of our Safety for Everyone approach - offering advanced safety on our vehicles regardless of size or price. For example ... side curtain airbags and ABS are standard on vehicles from the upcoming subcompact Fit to the Ridgeline truck.
You can really see the benefit of this commitment on the new Civic. With Honda's ACE body, we are addressing vehicle-to-vehicle compatibility in frontal collisions like no other automaker. And Civic recently became the first compact car to achieve the IIHS "Top Safety Pick - Gold" award.
Safety for Everyone is an ongoing commitment to our customers and society. You can see some of our future safety concepts with the ASV3 vehicles ... technologies that help sense the potential for collisions. Again, our commitment is not just "me" protection, but "we" protection ... trying to make transportation safer for all road users.
Through all of these efforts ... we are providing new value to our customers and society ... helping Honda maintain our special relationship with the American people ... and achieving our goal of being a company that society wants to exist.
Now, I would like to introduce Dick Colliver, who will introduce a new model that fits with Honda's clean, safe and fun brand values. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Fukui. We're going to Clean, Safe and Fun in just a minute,...but first, I'd like to tell you a little bit about the year we just finished. 2005 was truly remarkable for Honda. It began with the launch of the innovative Ridgeline truck, and continued with significant updates to the class-leading Accord and Pilot SUV, culminating with the debut of the radically transformed 2006 Civic.
Along the way, we recorded our 10th straight year of record sales, earned a number of awards and achieved some industry firsts. Most notably, Motor Trend Magazine chose Honda products for both car and truck of the year, the first time that any manufacturer has received both awards in the same year.
Motor Trend named the Ridgeline 'Truck of the Year' - an extraordinary achievement for a pickup in its rookie year, - and validation of Honda's unique approach to the pickup segment. Importantly, the Ridgeline continues to gain momentum with consumers as well, posting sales gains in 10 of the past 11 months. Additionally, the all-new 2006 Civic's combination of style, technology and value earned it Motor Trend Car of the Year honors.
As thrilled as we are about these accolades from some of the industry's toughest critics, we're equally proud of our track record on safety and environmental performance, made even stronger by the arrival of the Ridgeline and the new Civic. This year, once again, Honda has the highest corporate average fuel economy rating and the lowest overall emissions of any full line automaker.
And as Mr. Fukui has indicated, we intend to further strengthen this position. And the car we're debuting here today is no exception to the rule. If you don't mind my saying it ... I think it will be a perfect "Fit" in our lineup.
Last year we unveiled the Ridgeline, the largest vehicle in Honda's line up. Today we are here taking the wraps off our smallest vehicle - but make no mistake, there is nothing undersized about this car's safety performance, its innovative features or advanced technology.
It's a highly refined premium entry-level car featuring a number of firsts for the subcompact segment that will immediately make it a class leader. In fact, we believe it will fit perfectly into people's lives...
Already one of Honda's hottest selling cars around the world, the Fit comes to North America with unique powertrain, feature, and safety content to meet the needs of buyers in this market. As the Civic has gradually moved up market, it has left room in our lineup for a new entry-level model. But rest assured, the new Honda Fit delivers a lot more than just typical small car value and fuel efficiency.
When you look at other entries in the subcompact segment, the Fit arrives at the top of the class in terms of standard safety, refinement, interior flexibility, and fun to drive character. The Fit will appeal not only to entry level consumers, but will also appeal more broadly to consumers looking for a fun, flexible and fuel efficient small car that serves as an ultra-comfortable cargo mover.
Powering the Fit is a 109-horspower VTEC engine, and a 5-speed automatic transmission that's unique in this class. The estimated 33 / 38 city and highway mileage is among the best fuel economy ratings for conventional gasoline engines in 2006.
Demonstrating its fun-to-use spirit and Honda's industry-leading packaging ... unique flip and fold magic seats are standard in the Fit. These innovative 60/40 split rear seats allow the seatbacks to dive down into the floor or the seat bottoms to flip up, providing unprecedented seating and cargo carrying flexibility. In a demonstration of impressively big smallness, there's nearly as much passenger volume as an Accord, and only slightly less cargo capacity behind the second row than an Element.
Fit comes with the most standard features in its class making it a leader among subcompacts. For example, we know that our customers want more audio entertainment options, and we'll be the first in the segment to offer a new level of iPod connectivity that will interact fully with the audio system.
The Sport model comes with steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters - not only a first for Honda, it's also a first for the segment. The Sport package adds an underbody kit, rear roofline spoiler, fog lights, aluminum-alloy wheels, and an upgraded audio system.
The Fit is a subcompact that does not compromise on safety. Adhering to Honda's "Safety for Everyone" initiative, Fit has the most standard safety features in its class.
The Fit will go on sale in April as a 2007 model, and we're projecting sales of approximately 33,000 this year and 50,000 on an annual basis. We'll be announcing the price a little closer to launch timing, but we expect the base model will start between 13 and 14 thousand dollars. But the Fit is only half the story for Honda in 2006.
This fall, we'll introduce an all-new, completely re-engineered CR-V. And for the first time, we will be producing the CR-V in North America...at our East Liberty, Ohio, auto plant along side the Civic Sedan and Element...demonstrating once again the value of our flexible manufacturing system.
With the introduction of Fit in April and all-new CR-V this fall, along with continued momentum from the new Civic and other key models, we're projecting Honda Brand sales of around 1.3 million in 2006, which would make it our 11th consecutive record year.
Thank you for your time and attention this afternoon... let's make it a clean, safe and fun year.
Photo Report (15 photos)