Honda's senior vice president acknowledges that the gasoline internal combustion engine will be the primary source of automotive power for the next 15 to 20 years. In a speech at a Center for Automotive Research seminar (transcribed on, John Mendel was brutally honest about the world's environmental problems and the challenges faced by the auto industry. But Mendel also stressed that success in selling vehicles does not require tradeoffs. He said Honda has always focused on fuel efficiency, even when oil cost $3 a barrel.

Some critics have questioned Honda's environmental sincerity because the company hasn't promised to build a gazillion hybrids by the end of the decade. Honda is taking a more patient if not calculated approach to hybrids. Mendel said there will be a new "affordable" hybrid coming in 2009 with projected annual sales of 100,000 units. He also touted a new 4-cylinder clean diesel engine that will not need urea or other add-on technology to meet federal emissions standards.

If you want a snapshot of Honda's environmental strategy, just look at the Civic. You can find conventional gasoline, diesel, gas-electric or natural gas powertrains under the hood somewhere in the world. Mendel's comments are blunt, effective and promising.


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