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You Meet The Nicest People on the Honda Board of Directors

The 2015 Isle of Man TT has come to a close and as usual, the Senior TT was won on a Honda.  Also this month, Honda unveiled the production version of the RC213 V-S, a $180,000 MotoGP replica meant to represent the company’s pinnacle achievement; a beacon guiding consumers to their brand. 

As exciting as this news has been, there are also clear indications of something pretty awful.  Hidden in plain sight we see the death of risk by a motorcycle brand that once stood as the very embodiment of innovation and bold leadership.

The Honda Motor Company was founded by a man who’s singular vision and passion for exceptionalism were for half a century the lode star of the motoring universe.  Soichiro Honda was by all accounts a gruff, self-motivated perfectionist who steered his tiny company from piston ring supply to the top-tier of global automotive giants, mostly by sticking to his guiding principles.

He believed in competition in industry and on the track; he sought the company of exceptional people and listened to them (most importantly Takeo Fujisawa, his indispensable business partner); and he dared to be the best, to take on the world and not be held back by fear.

Soichiro Honda and Takeo Fujisawa, respectively the heart and the head of Honda
Soichiro Honda and Takeo Fujisawa, respectively the heart and the head of Honda

Honda, the company, was for decades the leading light of motor transportation because it strove to operate at a higher level.  Their products were the most refined, the best made, and cost efficient.

Honda systematically invested in radical innovation even when markets were fat and sales plentiful.  Honda was not afraid of risk.  From the 1970’s until the late 1990’s, the company unleashed a staggering array of unparalleled developments that blew the competition away.

Motorcycles like the EXP-2 and NR750 introduced advanced new technologies unseen on two wheels, while products like the Goldwing, SH “Scoopy” scooter family and VFR invented new categories that influenced the entire industry.  Other experiments failed, such as the four-stroke Grand Prix racers of the 1980’s or the Hondamatic, but this never deterred the brand from trying again and again to raise the bar.

Carbon fiber, forced air induction, oval piston V-4, underseat exhausts and a single sided swingarm... in 1992.
Carbon fiber, forced air induction, oval piston V-4, underseat exhausts and a single sided swingarm… in 1992.

Honda’s fate, indeed its posture and taste for risk are inextricably linked to its fortunes as a car maker.  During the same period that they ventured boldly in motorcycle engineering and design, Honda auto enjoyed stratospheric success.

The Honda Accord was the first foreign nameplate to become the best-selling car in America, while the Civic was entrenched as the performance and design leader in its class.  Honda powered cars won Formula 1 world championships, the Indy 500, and it was the Honda NSX (Acura NSX in North America) that blew the European exotic sports car industry sideways.  Honda was the brand of the young and the forward thinking.

Ayrton Senna defends one of his multiple Formula One world championships powered by Honda
Ayrton Senna defends one of his multiple Formula One world championships powered by Honda

Today the picture is radically different.  While still strong, the car company is a distant third among Japanese brands, selling about a 40% as many cars as rival Toyota, and it has long lost its glow of youthful brio and engineering leadership to brands like Kia and Tesla.  In China, the world’s largest car market, Honda is struggling, beleaguered by labour problems and stained with a reputation for arrogance in a culture that already holds an antipathy towards anything Japanese.

On two wheels Honda is still the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer but that position is under threat not from Yamaha, but Indian brands like Bajaj, Hero and Mahindra, who possess a lock on the vast Indian domestic market while advancing in design, engineering and marketing at a geometric rate.  Modern India places great value on developing indigenous technological expertise, while also possessing an underlying entrepreneurial spirit.  It is worth noting, for example, that Hero is the second largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world by volume, and that Bajaj own a 47% stake in KTM.  This does not happen without both ambition and talent.

The new RC213 V-S revealed this month does not reflect the old Honda spirit, but rather the tepid, fearful meanderings of a corporation treading the middle ground in an increasingly uncertain sales position.  While the regular street offerings by Honda are in every way superior products, exceptional in quality, value and capability, the overall brand message seems threadless.

The way we were. The 2003 RC211V MotoGP prototype (in the background) inspires the 2003 CBR600RR on the street and sets the supersport mould for ten years.

The RC213 V-S is special but not brilliant.  A detuned MotoGP street bike was pioneered by Ducati ten years ago.  Unlike the halo products of Honda’s guilded past, such as the oval pistoned NR750, the RC213 V-S pioneers nothing and comes a full decade after rumours first surfaced of a Honda MotoGP replica.  The project seems wrought with indecision and half measures, from the stuck on design of its lighting and mirrors, to its public debut a year ago when no clear answer was provided about its production potential.

Similarly the lack of official participation at the Isle of Man TT, the very venue that Soichiro first ventured into the global arena, and where Honda first cemented its reputation for excellence, shows how little Honda Corporate understands their own brand.  Where once Soichiro would have flung resources and demanded nothing less than factory Honda domination in all classes, today we see an officially supported but privateer run effort with little to no global marketing presence.  Instead of innovation and intent, we get a long winded web series that no one watches.

Right : the 2011 Honda Electric TT Racing bike concept.  Note the classic 1960's Honda colours. Left : the Mugen Shinden Ichi from the same year
Right : the 2011 Honda Electric TT Racing bike concept. Note the classic 1960’s Honda colours.
Left : the Mugen Shinden Ichi from the same year

Similarly, the TT Zero effort by Mugen (a company founded by Honda’s son and dedicated to providing tuning products exclusively for Honda vehicles) should be a fully supported factory effort.  The company of Soichiro would never have turned down the opportunity to demonstrate strength in an emerging area of motorcycle technology, even if at risk of losing.  He would also not have let his brand run an uncompetitive World Superbike team, invisible World Endurance Championship operation, or let a regional specialty brand like KTM walk all over it in off-road racing.

“If Honda does not race there is no Honda” said Soichiro.

He understood that a company from a defeated former enemy nation, to be taken seriously must win hearts and consumer wallets by competing openly against the best in the world and be seen doing so.  Victory was only part of the marketing appeal.  The struggle, presenting Honda vigorously challenging the world was the gold.  People love stories of struggle, so when brands are seen in the fight of their lives they become more than commercial entities.  They are humanized.  They win your heart.

Honda at the TT in 1961. Note the handwritting at the bottom "Thank you Mr. Honda" signed Mike Hailwood.
Honda at the TT in 1961. Note the handwriting at the bottom “Thank you Mr. Honda” signed Mike Hailwood.

 

“The value of life can be measured by how many times your soul has been stirred.” 

Honda cannot afford not to shock and awe the small core of enthusiasts who, as every marketing expert will tell you, disproportionately influence the consumer masses.  Honda must, as the stickers say on their Repsol MotoGP bikes, win over motorcyclists with heart.  Put another way, the company that proclaims to deliver The Power of Dreams must actually provide some, because owning an ultra reliable, cost efficient motorcycle is not a dream.  It is today’s reality.

As I have said on record many times, racing is a money pit that can, and has, spelled doom for many motorcycle brands in the past.  However for a healthy brand it can and must serve the dual purpose of stamping technological and spiritual authority on its business domain.  The cost to benefit ratio of a well produced promotional campaign built around the relentless pursuit of victory is clearly understood.  The only limiting factor is budget, and that it not impede the operational needs of the manufacturing business.

Soichiro with the 1963 Honda Formula One car
Soichiro with the 1963 Honda Formula One car. It is worth noting that his company didn’t even sell cars at that point.

The Honda Motor Company, once named by 5 of the most influential automotive CEO’s as the most inspirational brand in transportation, is now a brand driven only by the need to satisfy short-term shareholder value.  Of course all corporations are, but the key difference is,  in the ultra competitive auto and motorcycle sectors, only the innovative brands survive. Today’s Honda brand occupies the same place in the consumer mind as Dell Computer and Toyota.  Safe.  Reliable.  Anonymous.

The spirit of Soichiro Honda is alive, but it resides in India instead of Minato, Japan.  Somewhere in south Asia is a leader, perhaps several, who understand that in a world where excellent motor vehicles are commonplace commodities, only the brave, bold and aspirational will thrive long term.

To the many dedicated, professional and highly experienced persons working at all levels of the Honda Motor Company I say ask yourself: “What would Soichiro do?”

 

Persons interested in the true history of Honda should read “The Honda Myth : The Genius and his Wake” by Masaaki Sato.  The artwork in this post’s featured image is by the author, a version of which originally appeared in Hellforleathermagazine.com in 2012.

38 thoughts on “You Meet The Nicest People on the Honda Board of Directors”

    1. “When the Japanese say, “yes, we understand”, it doesn’t necessarily mean what we would take it to mean. It means they understand the words coming out of your mouth. But it doesn’t necessarily mean they agree, or that they know what to do about it.”
      When I worked for one of the Japanese companies, we would be in a meeting and the higher ups would say, ” Thank you, yes – we hear you” – it meant pretty much the same thing…

  1. I’d agree that the power of marketing is definitely the major factor behind pickup truck success, as an aside.

    With Kawasaki releasing the Most Ridiculous Motorcycle In Existence .. for $27.5k CAD, the Honday RCV street bike is laughable by comparison both in specs and price. The quickly following insulting backhand then comes from the $25k CAD Yamaha R1M that carries 2012 MotoGP ECU technology. There is no reason for the RCV to cost so much. The derision is well-deserved. Just because something is “bolted on” (mirrors) doesn’t mean it can’t look nice, especially with a $180k pricetag. This alone makes me think they’ve lost the plot somewhat.

    That said, I think the Grom was an interesting bike, and certainly a surprise success. Hopefully that isn’t the only interesting thing they do in the future. It’s quirky but certainly not in the same category as the oval pistoned bikes.

  2. I’m not going to give a history lesson here, so take my word
    when I say this link is a lot more Honda related than the
    preceding babble about pick-up trucks (fyi, they’re gay):

    https://nowtoronto.com/music/socan-to-be-wild/

    The subject may even cause one to reconsider this:

    Hidden in plain sight we see the death of risk by a
    motorcycle brand that once stood as the very embodiment
    of innovation and bold leadership.” </i?

    And, for the record? Billy’s bike was the cool one.

  3. Michael, you’d be better served not to talk in absolutes. I don’t even know where to start, but the success of the pick-up in NA is a product of so many things (eg. our general affluence, low gas prices, the need in NA to feel safe/secure, our climate, our geography, our lifestyles, our culture/history, etc.) that to explain it away as “the power of marketing” and all about the image is simply dumb.

    Maybe stick to bikes.

  4. This is a motorcycle magazine, but I have to say this regarding the pickup truck thread :

    You are wrong about the marketing. Honda knew *exactly* who they were targeting: the vast majority of Canadian and American pickup truck buyers who live in suburbs, rarely tow anything and work white collar jobs. They buy trucks because of the image, and justify all kinds of things by citing astounding capabilities they will never use. Unfortunately for Honda, the Marlboro man image trumped the urban excellence of the Ridgeline.

    I will concede that the Ridgeline is an excellent example of Honda taking a risk.

    1. What an absurd requirement. Oh no, you have to leave the gate open the once every four years suburban dad attempts to build a shed. That is such a deal breaker. How many times does a normal person get 4×8 sheets of plywood? Who buys a $30-60k vehicle based on what you need it to do 1% of the time? Close to 70% of pickup truck sales are to users who work in an office and live in tract housing.

    The box is USELESS. Open to the elements, theft and allowing unsecured tall objects to fall out during cornering, the pickup has utterly failed to make sense in the rest of the world for good reason. It is a North American pathological obsession with little grounds in reality unless you are a farmer. A full frame utility van does more and better, which is why contractors and delivery companies (people who work their vehicles for a living) use those.

    2. That goes up right there with #1. The 4000lbs trailer/boat that a tiny fraction of pickup owners tow on their mythical epic vacations to the cottage they built out of 4×8 plywood all by themselves. That, my friend, is the power of marketing.

    3. Agreed.

    4. Agreed, but then I think they all are.

    Lets get back to bikes…

    1. Hahaha sounds like you and I need to chat about the utility of pickups sometime, Michael.

      I loved mine when I had it, but now I drive a Grand Cherokee, so what does that tell you? I still miss my little 2-door Ranger every time I see one, though. It was exceedingly useful for my lifestyle – which is, admittedly, more utilitarian and bohemian than most.

  5. No question, the Ridgeline was a nice truck to live with BUT….

    1) The box was too small, to carry a 4×8 sheet of plywood you had to drop the tail gate.
    2) It only came as a half ton, which limited its towing capability.
    3) The aftermarket never cottoned to it – not a lot of useful accessories.
    4) It was ugly.

    The marketing department never figured out who they trying to sell the truck to, hence why not enough people bought it….

    1. “1) The box was too small, to carry a 4×8 sheet of plywood you had to drop the tail gate.”

      Aren’t the vast majority of pickups sold these days crew cab models with beds not even a full 6 feet long, never mind 8 feet? These small beds don’t seem to be scaring off a lot of the buyers of these trucks.

      Sure, if you need a “real” work truck that can haul stuff like 4×8 sheets of plywood or drywall with the gate closee (and between the wheel wells, too) then you need an American full-sized truck, but that’s not what most people seem to be buying.

      OTOH, the Ridgeline was odd-looking with the bed sides sloping up the back of the cab, and it “only” had a V6 available.

      1. And GM stuck some plastic on a shortbed to mimic its lines.

        Really, yesterday I parked my Mercedes E300 at Petsmart beside some pickup truck that needed an extender to carry a lawnmower – a push lawnmower! My trunk is bigger than that!

  6. Honda stopped production of the Ridgeline in 2014.
    They have a concept replacement scheduled for 2017 which, at this time, appears to be a more traditionally styled truck that should stack up very well against the “half-ton” truck segment.
    The gen1 Ridgeline was alone in it’s class and should have been a much better selling vehicle.
    Excellent quality and performance led to very high owner satisfaction.
    It was the darling of Consumer’s Reports reviews and has proven reliability every year since it’s introduction in 2006.

    To me, this is a good example of Honda getting everything right – but still not having a successful product.
    The lion’s share of blame for this failure should fall directly on the shoulders of marketing – they failed to convince buyers to consider the Ridgeline as a solid choice.

  7. It was just to dissuade the oft stated view that North American manufacturers were incapable of “high-tech” automobiles.

    Horses for course, bien sur.

  8. Thanks, RUI. I will be writing a lot more soon.

    As for Honda, I think my public stance on the brand it pretty clear. As a Yamaha consultant who worked actively to beat Honda for close to ten years, I have heaped lots of praise on Big Red here, in Cycle Canada, Hell For Leather, and other outlets.

    My criticism is hard because as the world’s number 1 and heirs to the “Honda Way”, they need to try harder. Fact is, I love what I see in India and from first hand experience with those brands I can tell you: Honda will not remain alone at the top long.

  9. Michael, I think they still try to innovate and continue to take big risks like before, but it’s tempered to the times. Recent risks? The DN-O1 was huge failure but an attempt to find a new niche. The jury is still out on the CTX1300, but yet another risk. The Grom was a hit! As for Innovation? Look at the new NSX with 3 electric motors, it’s unlike anything else offered. Or who else has a 172hp dual clutch automatic bike? Again, it wasn’t a commercial success but kudos to pushing the boundaries. And the RC213 has been untouchable in a way that no other manufacturer has replicated.

    Fact is, times are different – profit margins are lower then they’ve ever been, the threats of litigation is higher everywhere, engineers are challenged more then ever to produce products that are faster yet cleaner, safer yet lighter, more feature filled, and all way more efficient then ever. Brands are disappearing, Porsche is making most of its money off of SUVs, and nearly every manufacturer’s go-to engine is the (pathetic) 2L 4 cylinder turbo vs. e.g. the sublime naturally aspirated inline sixes or rotaries, and soon the North American V8 will soon be a thing of the past. Innovation is defined very differently nowadays vs. how us enthusiasts would have described it. The constraints are very different. Sochiros “balance” would have to look way different today – that’s my point.

    Truthfully I’m a bit tired of seeing Honda always seeming to get harsher criticisms than the others. How has Triumph, Suzuki, Ducati, Kawasaki, etc. attempted to move the needle in any significant way lately?

    Otherwise, nice article. Hope you write on here more often.

  10. I would suggest the reason Honda and non of the other manufacturers support IOM racing is it is just too dangerous and the risk of a fatality undermines the promotional benefit. The race used to be a good place for development but I don’t think racing there will help develop bikes anymore.

    I read an interesting interview in Racer X ill with the head of HRC. When the economy tanked they pulled back everything except MotoGP and they are now getting back into other series, hence he was at a US Supercross race checking on their progress.

    I’m also surprised at how bad their WSBK effort has been but I think it will get much better in the next couple years.

    I’m a biased Yamaha fan and if you want a MotoGP replica for a fraction of the cost buy the new R1M. As for real MotoGP bikes they are 4 stroke now GPfan time to catch up.

    Still an interesting article.

  11. Some things I just don’t understand in this article…

    It focuses on Honda’s culture and CEO, yet doesn’t mention that their new CEO Hachigo made his reputation on the U.S. Odyssey minivan and CR-V crossover.

    -Mini-vans and CRVs do not make for exciting automobiles. When was the last time the Big H built a true road going sports car, the S2000 ?

    It describes the unpublicized production potential of the RC213 V-S when it debuted as evidence of “indecision and half measures”. As Zac mentioned in the referenced article, “these bikes are prototypes, with no guarantee of coming to market”. It’s surprising that an author touted as “an insider” doesn’t know that prototype and concept vehicles are common in the industry, and don’t come with guarantees.

    -This is not a prototype, it is a limited production production machine that will get its clocked cleaned by any number of motorcycles from Ducati, Yamaha, Kawasaki, BMW or Aprilia. You’re either on the bus or you’re not on the bus – this one missed the bus.

    It also describes the RC’s “stuck on design of its lighting and mirrors” as evidence of “indecision and half measures”: surely it’s a measure of a 100% focused MotoGP bike with minimal concessions to the street, as is the stock 9,400 rpm limit in the US to meet EPA noise regulations instead of compromising packaging to fit large street-based mufflers. Next the author will be citing the lack of integrated cruise control as evidence of “indecision and half measures”

    -Its another coffee table like the H2R, for people with more money than brains.

    The article is too woolly to be sure, but it appears the author is making an argument that Honda doesn’t support racing well, or capitalize on it, since some of its efforts aren’t full factory efforts. Perhaps the author hasn’t heard of this little thing called MotoGP, which most folks consider the pinnacle of manufacturer investment in motorcycle racing: 2014 marked Honda’s 4th constructor championship in a row, with Marc Marquez, a rider for whom Honda had FIM change the rookie rule so he could have a factory ride in his first year. The TT Zero effort is cited as a lack of commitment… let me see, the other Japanese manufacturers supporting teams are… oh, wait, there aren’t any; the TT Zero effort should be fully factory supported because they wouldn’t win otherwise… oh, wait, the inadequately supported Mugen team won and set a record lap.

    -Honda ONLY supports Moto-GP. Their efforts in WSBK are halfhearted, they do nothing in MotoAmerica or Formula One car racing. Mugen is not Honda, any more than Yoshimura is Suzuki.

    One of the reasons Honda doesn’t fully support all classes is that it understands that racing requires a healthy ecosystem in which others can afford to participate and win. As HRC vice-president Shuhei Nakamoto said when KTM fielded full factory bikes in the 2013 Moto3 championship: “This system of genuine factory teams will ruin Moto3. We consider this to be a beginner class – to build young riders at a reasonable cost.” Honda went on to win the 2014 and 2015 championships and FIM is introducing further rule restrictions to close the gate after the horse has bolted.

    -Honda enters to win, nothing more nothing less. When was the last time they provided a customer bike for small displacement roadracing, the mid-eighties ?

    Perhaps the introduction of this series is more telling than the title: the author “lives … in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which is about as far away from the center of the motorcycle universe as one can get”.

    -Halifax is a very nice place, the authour has a lot of intelligent things to say. End of rant.

  12. Some things I just don’t understand in this article…

    It focuses on Honda’s culture and CEO, yet doesn’t mention that their new CEO Hachigo made his reputation on the U.S. Odyssey minivan and CR-V crossover.

    It describes the unpublicized production potential of the RC213 V-S when it debuted as evidence of “indecision and half measures”. As Zac mentioned in the referenced article, “these bikes are prototypes, with no guarantee of coming to market”. It’s surprising that an author touted as “an insider” doesn’t know that prototype and concept vehicles are common in the industry, and don’t come with guarantees.

    It also describes the RC’s “stuck on design of its lighting and mirrors” as evidence of “indecision and half measures”: surely it’s a measure of a 100% focused MotoGP bike with minimal concessions to the street, as is the stock 9,400 rpm limit in the US to meet EPA noise regulations instead of compromising packaging to fit large street-based mufflers. Next the author will be citing the lack of integrated cruise control as evidence of “indecision and half measures”

    The article is too woolly to be sure, but it appears the author is making an argument that Honda doesn’t support racing well, or capitalize on it, since some of its efforts aren’t full factory efforts. Perhaps the author hasn’t heard of this little thing called MotoGP, which most folks consider the pinnacle of manufacturer investment in motorcycle racing: 2014 marked Honda’s 4th constructor championship in a row, with Marc Marquez, a rider for whom Honda had FIM change the rookie rule so he could have a factory ride in his first year. The TT Zero effort is cited as a lack of commitment… let me see, the other Japanese manufacturers supporting teams are… oh, wait, there aren’t any; the TT Zero effort should be fully factory supported because they wouldn’t win otherwise… oh, wait, the inadequately supported Mugen team won and set a record lap.

    One of the reasons Honda doesn’t fully support all classes is that it understands that racing requires a healthy ecosystem in which others can afford to participate and win. As HRC vice-president Shuhei Nakamoto said when KTM fielded full factory bikes in the 2013 Moto3 championship: “This system of genuine factory teams will ruin Moto3. We consider this to be a beginner class – to build young riders at a reasonable cost.” Honda went on to win the 2014 and 2015 championships and FIM is introducing further rule restrictions to close the gate after the horse has bolted.

    Perhaps the introduction of this series is more telling than the title: the author “lives … in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which is about as far away from the center of the motorcycle universe as one can get”.

  13. I owned all of the ‘MotoGP’ replicas. The real ones.

    Rz’s350 and 500. RG500. Ns400R.
    The Honda was shit. Heavy and expensive.

    As for the cars? Unless one is lusting for the standard
    super-car un-obtanium, desiring anything J.A. Pan
    over a Hemi ‘Cuda or any of the lesser Big Three
    man cars is a mugs game. Get an Elite or Elan ffs.

  14. OK, I read that link and have to ask: what exactly is the relevance?

    GM built a limited production mini muscle car that made no impact whatsoever on GM, the market, or reputation of Chevrolet (outside of fan boys). I grew up in GM country during the mid to late 70’s and all I remember is that the nickel miners all started buying Datsun B210 and Honda Civics after the 77 Caprice got the anemic 250CID 6 pot.

  15. Rui

    The thrust of my column is that Honda was the greatest ever automotive Chief Executive precisely because he balanced shareholder value with risky innovation. It was Soichiro who aggressively took on the world with cheap mass market motorcycles like the C50 cub, while simultaneously competing at the highest levels on the world stage.

    Rather than do what everyone else did (at the time the British and Italians) he demanded technological innovation that still undercut the competition on price. Like CVCC (Compound Vortex Controlled Combustion, something Honda pioneered in beginning in 1971).

    That takes true research and development, always exensive and often down paths that may not yield commercial results for years. Or ever. And that means taking risk.

    To JIMO368’s point, I am not suggesting that the RC213 V-S or any other new Honda technology is bunk, but that they show a corporate culture that is only interested in incremental improvement rather than real innovation. I am hardly betting against Honda, but then again, who in 1980 would have bet against General Motors…

    As a post script, if Soichiro was 20 years old today, he would certainly be at the vanguard of whatever industry he chose to operate in. He was an entrepreneur that understood how to identify opportunity, sell, and make good business decisions, which is how he built his company into a world power from the ashes of post war Japan. Enzo Ferrari was a terrible business man who ran his company into the ground 9 years after is was incorporated, and ignored operational matters thereafter.

    1. Their 750, 500 and 250 are the modern equivalent of the C50, and while it may not be direct factory sponsorship, I see at lot of Repsol race replicas around. Their innovation now is about trying something different – a bagger Wing and ST, a weird 700 space mobile, and can we forget the Rune? Class specs for racing make it anything but innovative; everyone runs the same basic config except for Ducati, who get a volume advantage. The modern consumer market is different, most riders couldn’t give a rat’s behind about racing and couldn’t name more than one or two Moto GP participants. As for the IOM, the inevitable death on a Honda that entails would do as much PR damage as good in the mini-van markets. Sochiro was selling one thing, motorcycles. Times have indeed changed.

  16. Well written, and some points that I’d agree with. But it’s very simplistic to argue that Honda is only concerned with short term shareholder value. Soichiro likely wouldn’t have succeeded in today’s times, nor would someone like Enzo, times simply have changed. Musk and his vision might be the closest example to those men, but really he only exists because he has the capital to do so, not to mention a unique environment/opportunity. But he’s still nowhere close to making money off of Tesla. It’s about survival now, and like BMW has disappointed alot of its loyalists to remain competitive, so has Honda. I wouldn’t bet against Honda being around 20 years from now – but I wouldn’t say the same about many of its competitors.

  17. It is interesting that everyone is writing off the RC213 when nobody has ridden it yet. Regardless of the specs, I’m sure it will set new standards of performance.

  18. Nice piece, Michael. I agree completely with your comments on the new “Moto GP replica” — what a POS, 101 hp for the American market? And 157 in Yurp unless you buy the upgrade kit to bring it near the level of current production bikes? Unbelievable — but there’s still lots of innovative spirit at the company as BG17 pointed out above. Not stuff that I like personally, but they’re still pushing boundaries.

    The car stuff? Getting more boring, no question. I’d take any Mazda over any equivalent Honda (and have, actually). Last Honda car I’d want was the S2000, and was looking for one last year but people want crazy money for them (ended up with a Mazdaspeed MX-5; really like it, but I wish I had an S2000).

  19. The small town Honda dealers in Canada are weak because small town markets are one-dimensionally fixated on the American pickup truck concept as a reasonable family vehicle. That is not going to change until people realize that a 5000lb crew cab with a short box is not more practical family car than say, an Oddessy (or Taurus, or Malibu, or Grand Caravan…).

    The pickup truck sector is a minefield for anyone but the US brands. Toyota and Nissan do OK, but it isn’t worth it for most Japanese/European brands to even bother. The profit margin on full frame trucks is ginormous, which makes it tempting but in 30+ years of trying and many terrific products, most rural North Americans reject import (ahem) brand pickups on the basis of brand bias.

  20. Honda’s fatal weakness is their lack of a full size pickup. Small town dealers can not survive with out one.

  21. Another great read! Honda needs to make today’s equivalent of the NSR 250. Small bikes are where it’s at.
    Who wouldn’t froth at the mouth for a bike in that class that was well made and goes fast! (Other than the imaginary ‘everyman’ made up by the marketing department)

  22. Wow – great article! I still have a soft spot for Honda, as the original VFRs and CBRs stoked the fire of my motorcycle obsession, but I do find myself constantly befuddled by their insistence that the world wants a DN-01. Ever since that atrocity, I see elements of its design in most of their new models, including the NM4, NC700, the CTX line, and even the Valkyrie and F6B. Please Honda, make a bike that riders will yearn for again, instead of spoon-feeding everyone moto-pablum…

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