One Car, Two Visions: Sales Versus Engineering

Checklists identifying the areas of improvement. Using these lists, young employees at Sayama Plant tackled the challenge of improving their own process. Efforts such as these resulted in several upward adjustments in production volume while minimizing new investments.

<< 1. Developing a Car with a Roomy Interior
<< 2. Target Concept: A Personal Jet
<< 3. A Decision by Sayama Plant
<< 4. One Car, Two Visions: Sales Versus Engineering
<< 5. The Concept that Overcame the Adversity
<< 6. A Simultaneous Launching through Three Sales Channels and the Challenge of Increased Production
<< 7. Beginning a New Odyssey in North America

The plan for facilities investments needed in preparation for Odyssey production was well under way at the Sayama Plant, but the Sales Division in Japan remained skeptical about the new car and its chances for success in the market. At the time 70 percent of “one-box” cars were powered by diesel motors. However, the Domestic Sales wanted a one-box car with a sliding door, just like those of other manufacturers. In fact, more and more Honda owners were switching to other brands in order to get them.

“Diesel engines may have been acceptable in the past when the safety or the environment was not so important issue,” said Odagaki. “But the Odyssey was to reflect the way family cars would look in the future. I insisted on this, perhaps with a certain amount of self-praise. I said we could change the world by introducing this car, and I maintained that we should release it as soon as possible. I tried my best to convince them, saying we could build it at our existing plant using the existing facilities and Accord parts, and that the required investment and development time could be kept to the absolute minimum.”

Sales management was not to be won over so quickly, but Odagaki and his team members simply would not give up. Instead, they focused on the challenge of making a more effective presentation the next time around. After careful consideration, they decided to use illustrations to explain concepts that mere words would make difficult to understand. Illustrations, for example, could show how easily the seats could be stored and lifted, and which functions were used when and in what way.

The team employed a one-quarter scale model and full-size Styrofoam package model in its presentation at the Corporate Strategic Meeting and Special Reporting Session. It made no difference to them that the full-scale mock-up consumed a significant amount of space within the conference area, since they wanted the decision-makers to actually get into it. In fact, they knew that was essential to gaining the support they needed.

Also explained at these meetings were sample use patterns based on various applications. Among the several simulations the team presented was one describing the vehicle’s benefit to golfing enthusiasts, a point well taken by the sales managers. The team explained: “This one can carry four golf bags without having to stack them on top of one another. Furthermore, people won’t mistake your car parked at the clubhouse entrance for some generic shuttle bus hired by the club.”

Nobuhiko Kawamoto, Honda’s president, in summarizing the overall response immediately expressed his support for the Odyssey project. However, North American Sales did not show much interest in the new minivan, which was less powerful and smaller in size than its U.S. counterparts. The upper-level representatives from Japanese Sales showed their reluctance due to the car’s divergence from traditional one-box models.
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