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Following our time visiting this week's Tokyo Motor Show, we had the opportunity to sit down for a small group interview at Honda's world headquarters with freshly-minted CEO Takanobu Ito, who took over the reigns at Honda from Takeo Fukui just this past June. Among the questions posed to Ito-san was "When will Americans see another performance car from Honda?" Honda has a tradition of performance vehicles and motorsports participation that goes back to the earliest days of the company. Ito himself was the chief body engineer on the original NSX and was pivotal in the development of its lightweight aluminum structure and body.
Given his role in one of the more unique aspects of the NSX, it was interesting that Ito acknowledged that he personally made the decision to pull the plug last year on the new car that was being developed as a successor to the NSX. Ito actually sounded as though he was channeling Colin Chapman in explaining the philosophy of using low mass to achieve a good power to weight ratio on the NSX. That approach allowed Honda to create a car that was "easy to drive, good performance and at the same time it enjoyed very good fuel economy."

However, reaching those goals required a significant investment in new manufacturing technology.

Ito went on to say that there were two challenges that must be overcome in order for a new sports car from Honda to become a reality. Read on after the jump.

"It remains our commitment that is exactly the direction that Honda sports car should be going," continued Ito, referring to low mass and efficiency. In addition to being president and CEO of Honda Motor Co, Ito is also president of the wholly-owned Honda R&D and as such understands the importance of research and the effort that goes into developing new technology. Creating technology that can be built affordably, especially moving forward in the 21st century, requires a significant investment.

That means an economic recovery must begin.

"Because the economy is so-so bad, the management is faced with a very tight constraint, we are barely managing to generate profit. Therefore we are hoping that people's purchasing power and desire will increase so as to generate more profit for Honda and let us have the cash to have a greater degree of freedom in our management."

"When it comes cars these days, there is a great demand to have green cars and we are working on environmental technologies. Right now we are in the midst of developing new green technologies." That includes fuel cells and hybrids for larger vehicles. "Once we come up with these new, innovative technologies that we are in the midst of researching, Once we have an abundance of cash, I definitely would like to see Honda build a sports car which would symbolize these technologies."

Ito then when on to take a bit of a jab at its bigger rival, "Once that day comes our sports car will not be something like what Toyota announced yesterday (referring to the nearly $400K Lexus LF-A) but instead will be something that is environmentally friendly and at the same time enjoy outstanding performance. I'd love to do that"

Honda FC Sport concept - Click above for high res image gallery

Later on Ito re-emphasized that Honda is not interested in making a mega-dollar sports car like the LF-A. Ito also said that Honda/Acura will not be going down the direction of engines with more than six cylinders. He did refer to last year's fuel cell-powered FC Sport concept as one long term direction he would like to pursue, but even in the nearer term blending hybrid technologies with smaller engines and low weight will be the Honda direction.

We can only hope that the economy rebounds soon so that we can see what the wizards at Honda can cook up next. Perhaps we'll get a preview in LA in December where Honda spokesman Chuck Schifsky told us to "look for a surprise."

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      Is it really so hard for Honda to make something to compete with the Genesis coupe, is it really that hard...
      • 5 Years Ago
      Mr Honda is right!

      Leave this Lexus to the rich sheiks. I will never be able to afford it.
      The new Toyota/Subaru coupe looks almost the same as the cheaper Hyundai coupe.

      Only Honda builds the affordable hatchback CR-Z packed with the latest technology.

      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm a huge fan of small, light weight sports cars. Previous offering from Honda including the S2000, Integra Type-R's (DC2/DC5) and Civic Type-R's and SiR's (FD2, EP3, EK4/9, EG6) were stellar. Those cars have fun, high revving, low displacement engines (Honda's specialty) and beautifully balanced handling. As a fan, it would be great to see a new model NSX, but financially I can see and accept how it isn't at all viable. I'm really not interested in hybrid sports cars (and I think a lot of other enthusiasts feel this way as well), I hope Honda hasn't misread the market here...
        • 5 Years Ago
        "Honda is smart to become a trend-setter rather than a trend-follower. "

        Technological wise, yes. Design wise, NO!!!

        Mr. Ito, when you have abundance of cash, can you please also hire better designers.

        To the autoblog staff who interviewed him: Did you ask him why North American Honda and Acura models have become more and more hideous?!?!?!
      JDM Life
      • 5 Years Ago
      Lexus LF-A FTW....forget you Honda.

      Theres no reason to even mention the LF-A in this....if you going to build a green performance car....JUST DO IT.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @JDM Life
        @ chickplayas;

        Fat ass and chinese eyes...stop talking like that; you're getting me hot....
        • 5 Years Ago
        @JDM Life
        LFA for me plz...
        NSX concept looks like a fat ass gal. and has a Chinese eyes.
      • 5 Years Ago
      By "affordable and green" I believe he means "FWD and torque-less".
      • 5 Years Ago
      Honda needs to grow some balls: This should be there sport car lineup.

      NSX: Livable supercar, Evora rival?
      Prelude or Integra: Based on a stretched and modified S2000 platform,
      Camaro/Genesis/370Z fighter.
      S2000: MX5 Rival.
      CR-Z: Scirroco Rival.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Interesting responses here. While I'm not a huge Honda fan and can't think of any car they make right now that I'd actually buy, I don't really really find fault with any of what he said. They don't have the extra cash flow right now to develop high end sports cars and when they do they want to stick to their principles. and considering the economy at the moment I don't see the demand for sports cars rising in the near future. mind you by demand I mean people going into dealerships and actually buying said cars,. not just saying they would totally buy them on the internet. I've seen like 3 genesis coupes on the road at this point.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I disagree with Mr. Ito about green technologies being the answer. If he is so concerned about reducing mass and simplifying design, they should not be bolting on an electric motor and tossing some batteries in the trunk. I also contend that the only people a "green" sports car will attract are those who would not have considered a sports car in the past, and are doing so now only because its in vogue. Honda is just jumping on the green-fever bandwagon like everybody else.

      My money will vote for that new non-hybrid Toyota/Subaru coupe.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I am quite aware of Honda's experience with highly efficient vehicles. I myself drive a civic, which gets 40 mpg highway when driven conscientiously. Cars like the CRX were cheap and efficient because they were small, simple, and most of all, lightweight. They accomplished 50 mpg almost 20 years ago when the public had no clue about hybrids.

        When I refer to "green tech", I'm talking about hybrids, EVs, hydrogen, etc.

        In my opinion, Honda jumped off the green bandwagon around 2000 to increase market share by offering the Pilot, Odyssey, Ridgeline, etc. Now they want to jump back on by using "green tech" to improve their public image. I feel they could accomplish the same efficiencies without these "green" technologies. They did it 20 years ago.
      • 5 Years Ago
      can they build a new sports car on a gt-r level anyways? maybe make it seem green somehow?
      The new CRX does look quite enticing. Hopefully it will compete with the new ft-86 because that could be the best comparison in a long time, between toyota and honda.
        • 5 Years Ago
        people will only cross shop the crz and the toyubaru if the honda comes with a normal powertrain

        as is, its an insight 2.0 with all the performance that that entails, what a joke honda
      • 5 Years Ago
      Honda better rebound soon! I've owned 2 Honda's in the last 2 years; since then they have almost no performance vehicles left now that the S2k is gone. Accord Coupe 6mt, and Civis Si?? Sweet! I currently drive a 4dr Si. It's sporty but not fast. The new CRZ with a 6spd better be at least 6sec. 0-60mph. with 35mpg's hwy! Come on Honda, where'd the ballz go? At least teeny tiny balls like we're used to.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Something he mentioned was that there was a high demand for green cars. The fact that car enthusiasts were following the NSX v2's development so closely means there must be a pretty big demand for cars like the NSX, too. Go ahead with it!
        • 5 Years Ago
        Good point.
        • 5 Years Ago
        There's a difference: the demand for green cars comes not from the enthusiasts, but from the general populace.

        As much as Honda would surely love to please the enthusiasts, they are smart to realize that only a small portion of the world can be considered 'enthusiasts'.
      • 5 Years Ago
      In that picture, he'll be asking you to cough twice please.
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