Honda Hotness Is Coming Back?

2008 was a great year for Honda fans and maybe even for automotive scene in general. Just imagine this, Honda, a conservative company who swears on sensibility and quality is throwing those notions away for a V8 rear wheel luxury sedan and a V10 powered super car. The automotive scene roars with high expectations. Spy photos of the rear wheel sedan test car is everywhere and the super car already making runs on a race track. Alas, comes 2009 and demand for automotive products dwindles as most sought after cars are econoboxes. Honda new President, Takanobu Ito back then changed his tune about the new cars and tells the fans and the scene to go “enjoy yourself” (there’s a new profanity filter in effect). So everything was scrapped, and all hopes out the window.

Denied luxury: The canceled mule of the FR Luxury Sedan

Rumors from inside automotive industry said that the V8 rear wheel luxury sedan which was destined to go to Acura division was a great car one that should put Honda luxury division on par with tier 1 luxury marque. While the super car lives on as a special fielded race car on Japan’s most prestigious racing event, the Super GT and won it. So as you can read, it’s very unfortunate for Honda to cancels both of these cars altogether.

Denied performance: Reportedly, this car doesn’t even consider GT-R and LF-A as competition

But this morning, birds are chirping beautifully on my front porch, the wind blows softly and the sun rose with a hint of blue and orange altogether. While I browsed Autoblog and Temple of VTEC the next minute, I was shocked out of my pants that Takanobu Ito in a way hints a little hope of a super car comeback after Honda discontinued the NSX. Apparently, Takanobu Ito was interviewed in Japan and some reporters asked if Honda would make a road going version of the super car that won the Super GT.

Ito’s answer for the question was “I have something in mind”. Now for those who don’t know Takanobu Ito, this guy is all straight as an arrow kind of leader. He always answers question in a definite way, yes or no and that’s that. For Ito to answer “having something in mind” well, it’s still ambiguous but having something is better than nothing right?

Such a tease: “I have something in mind”

Okay, so the news came from a French auto news site, which might make some little mistranslation (from Japanese to French to English). However, according to Temple of VTEC news section;Yahoo Japan and Asahi Shimbun also confirms and clearly stated that Takanobu Ito greenlight the project once again. Asahi Shimbun which post the news in English also mentions that Ito hints at making two sports car, the affordable and high performance… *faints*…

For those who don’t know, this is actually earth shattering news. Honda currently has no true performance sports car in its lineup, well, sure there’s the Civic Type R, but it’s more of a pedestrian car with souped up engine. Honda Prelude ends its production in 2001, Honda NSX ended in 2005, Honda Integra ended in 2007 and finally Honda S2000 ended in 2009. What came from the demise of those cars? Hybrids and lots of it. Civic Hybrid, Insight 2.0, CR-Z, and Fit Hybrid, not to mention Freed Hybrid and next generation Accord with Honda next generation hybrid system.

The shift from hardcore to green for some was considered too rough as there are no transition product in between. It’s quite understandable actually, as technology to produce performance with fuel economy wasn’t available yet. The  2010 CR-Z was Honda answer to this and although the blend of performance and fuel economy is good enough, as usual,  some consumers demand more… Well, to be fair… This particular consumer is too accustomed to huge ass performance gas guzzler 2 door sports car that’s bigger than a Honda Fit. Still, the CR-Z receives acclaims and accolades in a place where sensibility is praised.

But remember folks, Honda has set its sight straight in the green line and we’re not talking about money. Ever since the green revolution in the late 00′ Honda has been making fuel sipper as priority. So when you think about Takanobu Ito statement, don’t forget to add the green juice. Honda has fielded NSX with KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System, a form of hardcore hybrid system for racing) as a test bed for SuperGT 2012 rule change that mandates smaller engine and a hybrid system. It’s unclear whether this will be applied to Honda super car but you can be sure Honda will put every single piece of technology in its super car.

Front engine – KERS NSX test car: notice the exhaust tip on the side skirt?

Whatever it is Honda… We are awaiting with arms wide open, but until this car shows up in the real world, I’m putting a question mark on the title. We’ve been burned before Ito-san, and I won’t let my heart be broken the fourth time.


Temple of VTEC: Ito san changing his tune about NSX/HSV

Yahoo Japan: NSX development to resume (Japanese)

Asahi Shimbun: Honda to develop high performance sports car

SuperGT: 2012 KERS rule

Honda Fit/Jazz Hybrid Official Pictures And Some Facts (plus estimated price)

The MOST anticipated entry level hybrid from Honda is coming in hot and Autocar jumped the gun on the media embargo and present the Jazz Hybrid to be unveiled at Paris Motor Show next month. Please visit Autocar website for better resolution pictures of the car here. You can also check at your other favorite auto blogs or online automotive news about the Jazz hybrid.

As you can see, the difference is merely cosmetics, different grill, bumper and blue shaded headlights differentiating the regular and the hybrid Fit. The rear also receives similar cosmetic changes with clear taillights, accented bumper and chrome accented trunk garnish.

Without the hybrid plaque on the rear, you will surely miss this hybrid on the road… Which is good, because you don’t want to attract attention to criminals whose MO is to puncture your tire with a hollow nail and rob you silly (because you don’t have spare tire).

It has been confirmed that the Fit/Jazz hybrid will be sporting the same engine used on the Insight 2.0, a 1.3L i-VTEC with IMA producing around 100ps. Interior pictures are still kept secret from Honda, but words are circulating that the Fit/Jazz Hybrid will have single color dashboard and blue lit dials. You can check out my entry about Honda Insight engine here, but for peace of mind sake, I’ll divulge a bit about the heart of Honda hybrid system.

Honda hybrid system or Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) is a simple system where an electric motor is sandwiched between the internal combustion motor and the driving wheel, in Honda case it’s always the front wheel to date. Back when it was introduced with the 2000 Honda Insight, the IMA doesn’t have the ability to purely run on electric motor. However, when the Insight 2.0 launched early last year, the IMA system was updated to purely run on electric motor albeit with a very strict condition… Steady cruise speed without any inclination… Any degree of inclination, then the motor kicks in again. Still good anyway.

A cut out of Honda IMA system, notice how the engine’s width is very narrow

Honda called its hybrid system IMA for a good reason, it simply “assists” the internal combustion engine at low speed and when the car is accelerating fast. A good thing because the nature of electric motor to produce maximum torque at just 1000 RPM means the engine doesn’t have to burn unnecessary excessive fuel to launch the car at stop and go driving. The IMA also acts as a starter motor because the whole engine has the ability to be turned off at idle (traffic lights) automatically and restarts at the press of the gas pedal.

To produce electricity, the IMA system itself is a cylindrical generator system that spins with the internal combustion engine. At steady speed, the IMA recharge the battery and when there’s a forward movement usually caused by braking the IMA also captures this momentum to spin the generator the opposite way and producing electricity.

A complete Honda IMA engine + transmission, the IMA system is marked yellow at the bottom picture

Something to note is that Honda engineers can’t magically insert an IMA system to an existing engine *snap* like that. The IMA takes considerable space inside the engine bay, therefore something got to give and it’s usually the engine that gets the shorter end of the straw. Honda hybrid system uses a specifically designed narrow engine to allow the placement of the IMA system next to the gearbox.

Now for the million Pesos/Ringgit/Sing Dollar/Rupiah/Baht/Dong question for us Asia Pacific residents… Will we get it? We don’t get the Insight, the CR-Z and the Civic Hybrid costs an arm and a leg. Are we getting the cream again instead of a bite of the cake? Not quite! We’ve seen the almost miraculous Honda Freed launched in the Asia Pacific, exclusive even outside of Japan… And why? Because the Freed is produced in the Asia Pacific region to gain advantage of AFTA. The Fit/Jazz has been produced in Indonesia for quite sometime, so you see where I’m going, it’s too easy for Honda to just import the hybrid engine and assembled it in Indonesia and imports it to other country in ASEAN. If this is inline with Honda global plan to be the leading automaker of hybrids (it’s in the CEO midyear speech which I’m going to cover soon), then, we will see a near simultaneous release of the Fit hybrid all over the world; Europe, America, Australia and Asia.

So when? The Fit hybrid in Europe will be announced at the Paris Motor Show next month and launched early 2011, in the United States it’s still unconfirmed but it will be there around 2011 as 2012 model, nope, it’s totally unconfirmed. The United States might even missed the hybrid Fit/Jazz totally… A bit of a “huh” moment, because the Europeans will get it although they already has the Insight 2.0 just like the Americans. On the other side of the world, Japan’s Nikkei confirmed that the Fit hybrid will be launched around Fall in Japan. Using Freed’s launch time frame, then it’s just a matter of 1 to 1.5 years before us ASEANs can drive a genuine affordable hybrid courtesy of Honda. So expect the Fit/Jazz hybrid to announced at the end of 2011 and available at the latest early 2012 in ASEAN.

How much? Now this is the interesting part… Because of difference in currency and taxes, I’m just going to use Indonesia expected price and price estimate slot, which will be universal. Honda Jazz RS in Indonesia is priced at Rp. 222 Million (2 Million Yen) while the Japanese Fit RS is priced at 1.69 Million Yen, specs are the same except we use 5AT instead of CVT, price difference between both automatic transmission should be negligible. The Freed in Indonesia is priced at Rp. 258 Million (2.4 Million Yen) while the same Freed is priced at 1.99 Million Yen in Japan, again specs are the same (digital AC control & power retractable mirror just recently added), except for the use of 5AT instead of CVT and the lack of HID.

Let’s do a simple math, now both the Fit/Jazz RS and the Freed in Indonesia reflects a 18 & 20% mark up in price compared with its Japanese brothers, let’s take 20% as our baseline number. Now let’s take Nikkei’s reported Fit hybrid price which starts at  a cool 1.59 Million Yen, in Indonesia, the Jazz hybrid will be priced starting at Rp. 202 Million… Now I suspect that it will be a manual version, so add the usual 10-14 Million for an automatic version, and voila! The estimated Honda Jazz hybrid automatic will be offered in Indonesia for around Rp. 216 Million (roughly US$22K), hell! Round that up to Rp. 220 Million and people will still buy it! Now let’s say Honda decided to go greedy or wanted to add the RS trim to the Jazz hybrid. In Indonesia, the Jazz RS commands Rp. 13 Million more than the baseline Jazz, so added to the baseline Jazz hybrid, the Jazz hybrid RS will still worth Rp. 229 Million… And that my friends are something totally purchasable.

If, and this is just another silly if from me… If Honda wanted to play “screw you all, this is the first commercially affordable hybrid in ASEAN, I’m putting price premium to you suckers!”, the Jazz hybrid will still be below Freed’s price  or at the very least, the same. Still, I’m buying one if I don’t have any car by that time. The Jazz hybrid reported fuel consumption is 26 Km/L or 61 MPG (US), but I suspect it’s just highway number. For inner city driving, I expect that number to drop to half at 13 Km/L or 30,5 MPG (US)… Again, that number is already phenomenal, my 1.5L SX4 automatic only manages an average of 8,4 Km/L or 19,7 MPG (US) for pure inner city driving.

Personally, I’m betting that the Jazz hybrid price range will be around Rp. 220 Million to Rp. 230 Million. It will be priced at Jazz RS level, and complement each other. One you pay premium for exhilarating drive and the other if you are down with the earth and stuff. Tax wise, the car wouldn’t be a luxury import because it is based on an existing car… So if there’s any different tax imposed, I’m really speechless.

Update: 26 August 2010 – more info from other online media

Source: Honda launches new Jazz hybrid

The car connection: Honda Jazz hybrid will start a price war

Electric vehicles: Forward to the past

Honda Insight is Hout!

EGMcarTech: Jazz Hybrid Unveiled, No US Plans

Honda OSM, a Very Bad Dejavu?

Honda and sport, two words that dominates the young guns throughout the 90’s. The Integra, the NSX, The S2000, the hot Type R’s… Boy… Those are the days… But currently, Honda wanted the world to see them as a green automaker, and very desperate at it if I might add. The FCX, the FCX clarity, the Insight, the CR-Z, the Civic/Accord Hybrid and the planned new global hybrid that is purposed built to rival Toyota’s hot Prius. Then, out of nowhere, Honda came up with OSM, a coupe sporting hybrid name tag, and one bad dejavu… Remember SSM? More witty comments and what is SSM after the click. Continue reading