Thursday, July 15, 2010

Honda Will Dedicate A Factory for Producing Large Hybrids

2011 Honda Odyssey Concept

Honda will dedicate its Yorii factory, north of Tokyo, to producing hybrid SUVs and minivans�instead of making clean diesel vehicles or micro-cars as previously announced. Nikkei is reporting that the Yorii factory will begin production in 2013. Specific models to be produced have not been announced.

In February, we reported that Honda is developing a hybrid system suitable for larger cars such as the Odyssey minivan and the Pilot sports utility vehicle. Tomohiko Kawanabe, Honda�"s chief operating officer for automobile research and development, told Reuters, "We've left the research stage and entered the field of development." Kawanabe said these vehicles could hit the US market in about three years�a timeline that coincides with this week�"s news about the Yorii factory.

Honda took an early lead in hybrid development about a decade ago, but has since fallen behind in the hybrid and electric vehicle race. The company had been following a two-part efficiency strategy: diesel engines for larger vehicles and hybrid powertrains for cars. However, it appears the carmaker is focusing its mid-term efforts on hybrids.

In April, Honda president Takanobu Ito, said the company had grown �Scomplacent,⬝ and specifically pointed to its poor performance with hybrids as a key sign of the problem. �SEven before the green thing was big, they were into green,⬝ Ed Kim, an industry analyst at AutoPacific Inc. in Tustin, California, told BusinessWeek. �SOver the last few years, they�"ve been completely leapfrogged in new engine technologies.⬝

To correct the situation, Ito is pushing his engineers to have the next-generation Honda Insight beat the Toyota Prius�"s fuel economy numbers�and to deliver it as soon as possible. In addition to trying to beat the mileage of the Prius, Ito wants to roll out a new two-motor hybrid technical design�one motor employed to increase engine power and another solely to charge the battery. The new system is also likely to employ lithium ion batteries instead the nickel metal hydride technology currently in use. Honda reportedly will apply its new hybrid approach to a new minivan and unspecified Acura models.

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