A scan of recent Honda headlines shows a corporate entity that you'd think few people, and even fewer CEOs, would complain about: in spite of the odd recall, Honda sales are up, it tops an ALG survey on perceived quality, has excellent relations with suppliers, was granted the right to alter its struggling IndyCar engine and then powered the car that won the Indy 500, and its intergalactically popular CR-V beat the new Mazda CX-5 in a Consumer Reports test. And it is the only major automaker to never record an annual loss. Ever.

Yet those who look closer know more: the current Honda isn't the same company that got us to love the brand in the first place. The automaker has been saying for a while now that it is determined to be the alchemist it once was, committing to building smartly engineered, fun-to-drive cars. For the first time in its history it has promoted an American, Erik Berkman, to the position of North American Research and Development chief to do just that. According to Automotive News, Tetsuo Iwamura, Executive Vice President of Honda North American says "What we expect him [Berkman] to do is, through this good knowledge and experience, fulfill his dream of making North America strong." Obviously, there's no pressure at all.

There are two other lines in the Automotive News story that give an indication of the tough road Berkman has before him. One was this: "He's planning changes in styling, materials, driving dynamics and technology across the Honda and Acura model lines." That doesn't represent merely building a fun car; that statement would more closely equate to a change in corporate philosophy for a company that keeps an eye on costs with an intensity that would make a wolf spider jealous.

But Berkman, an engineer, has a 30-year history with the company and major successes on his record: he worked on the 1999 Honda Odyssey and 2001 Acura CL, his team designed the multiple-Indy 500-winning engine, and he led the development of the 2004 Acura TL sport sedan – a car he had to fight for, and whose sales repaid his commitment and the company coffers.

Berkman didn't go into details about what he's planning, but we know it will involve more racing, including tracked-out versions of the NSX, and, taking the 2013 Accord as a guide, making incremental improvements and adding features everywhere. In Berkman's own words, the second crucial line in the story is what he feels is his mission: "We want everybody to fall over and go: There it is again. There's that Honda we used to praise." Carry on, sir – we'll be watching.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 189 Comments
      Paul Kane
      • 3 Years Ago
      Okay, Erik. It isn't difficult. There are a million and one young, savvy male car buyers out there who grew up drooling over the sporty cars in your lines. Step 1 - Execute the new NSX as well as you can. It needs to be the starting point for all things sport in your brand. Step 2 - Bring back Type R, Type S, and extend the sport models across both Honda and Acura lines. Step 3 - For the love of all things holy, introduce a 2-door sport model in your Acura brand. Step 4 - For the love of almighty Soichiro, reintroduce a sporty mid-level roadster. Step 5 - Stop aiming only at SUV-buying women and start realizing your brand can be the BMW/Audi alternative it was meant to be. Your cars are better than Lexus and Infiniti. Start acting like it.
        whamhammer
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Paul Kane
        The problem is that Acura will never be a true BMW alternative, unless it develops a (great) rear drive platform. Enthusiast drivers at that level don't want front wheel drive styled handling.
          • 3 Years Ago
          @whamhammer
          [blocked]
          carguy1701
          • 3 Years Ago
          @whamhammer
          According to what I've heard, they DID have a multi-purpose RWD platform (think Nissan FM) in development, but the GFC killed it.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Paul Kane
        [blocked]
          • 3 Years Ago
          [blocked]
      jimdavis11a
      • 3 Years Ago
      I bought my 94 Accord new, put 287,000 miles on it and had to replace the alternator, heater fan motor, master brake cylinder, and the radiator. Never had to line up the front end and it ran better when I sold it last year than when it was new. I changed the spark plugs, one time, when it had 167,000 miles on it. Not to bad!
      Steve
      • 3 Years Ago
      My 1999 Accord LX has over 204,000 miles on it and is still going strong. Except for general maintenance I really haven't had anything to complain about. If I didn't have one daughter in college and another one right behind her I'd get another one in a heartbeat. hopefully it will keep going for another 4-5 years. Next time a 2 door coupe however.
      Azazel
      • 3 Years Ago
      You wanna woo back enthusiasts? Put about 150-165 hp in the CR-Z and keep the price the same. That would woo me.
        kuntknife
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Azazel
        You've got to be bat-shat crazy! How, pray tell, will you increase power and *keep* the same price? Friggin trolls, and shame on the upvotes too.
          bazinga
          • 3 Years Ago
          @kuntknife
          Simple, use the engines Honda currently has in their stable: omit the battery and IMA electric motors, drop in a mildly worked over R18 from the Civic into the CRZ. The R18 already has 140hp with an economy head and tune so 150-160hp isn't asking for much. A CRZ without expensive batteries, regenerative brake components, or electric motors should trim the price for production and weight by a large margin. What's crazy is that the answer is right under Honda's nose yet they choose to ignore it. Is it unreasonable to think the CRZ and Civic can platform/power-train share like they used to back in the 1980's?
      fosterdirector
      • 3 Years Ago
      Love my 2003 Element. Said I would never drive any other make or model. Only downside was higher than necessary gas mileage, but that was supposed to be remedied in future models and in a promised hybrid version. Instead, they discontinued Elements altogether. Still don't like any other vehicle as well, but will trade for a non-Honda when I reach 200,000 miles. They let me down. Can get same space for lower mpg.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @fosterdirector
        [blocked]
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        carguy1701
        • 3 Years Ago
        Uh huh, and most of it is meaningless now. The HSV-010 was going to be the next NSX and it was aborted before delivery. The Realtime Racing TSX's have little in common with the street cars (sequential gearbox, titanium engine components). Very few people seem to know (or care) that they took the Ridgeline to Baja. In the Continental Tire Challenge ST class, most of the Honda teams that run Civics are still using the previous gen car. They do not have any involvment in F1 anymore and the Indycar engines are purpose built race engines, with little chance for production trickledown.
      8krevver
      • 3 Years Ago
      Hahahahahahaha.....I see all the UAW trolls are on their UAW beer break now. They are all paid to bash Honda and promote their shitty Big # cars. Honda i just fine. They make much better cars than any of the unreliable Big 3 or Europeans ever dreamed off. They are also faster and much more fun to drive than any American or European cars.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @8krevver
        [blocked]
      SpikedLemon
      • 3 Years Ago
      I miss the Civic hatch. The quintessential "Honda" in my mind. Small, inexpensive, sporty, decent looking, functional, fuel efficient and with one of the best manual transmissions on the market.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @SpikedLemon
        [blocked]
      wongtpa
      • 3 Years Ago
      Buy American.
        houseiowapark
        • 3 Years Ago
        @wongtpa
        I am not buying any car that has the name of the planes used over Pearl Harbour and Hondas are butt ugly cars. BE AMERICAN, BUY AMERICAN. I don't ever consider owning a Nippon brand and look down on those who do. Shame on them.
          Patrick Rhoades
          • 2 Years Ago
          @houseiowapark
          also honda is made in ohio just so you know hondas sold in america are mostly 60 to 70 percent made in america compared to ford or chevy that have a 50 to 60 percent made in america rate.
          S.
          • 3 Years Ago
          @houseiowapark
          houseiowapark. It's 2012, buddy. Your ignorance is painful.
          • 3 Years Ago
          @houseiowapark
          [blocked]
          • 3 Years Ago
          @houseiowapark
          [blocked]
          wrxfrk16
          • 3 Years Ago
          @houseiowapark
          Yes, look down in that tank of yours in disdain while I blast by in my 04' S2000, grinning my damn face off. Oh and by the way, the Chinese like Buicks and Cadillacs, not the "Japs" as you so put it.
          • 3 Years Ago
          @houseiowapark
          [blocked]
        • 3 Years Ago
        @wongtpa
        [blocked]
          houseiowapark
          • 3 Years Ago
          The Japs prefer Buicks and Cadillacs. What does that tell you?
        • 3 Years Ago
        @wongtpa
        [blocked]
        • 3 Years Ago
        @wongtpa
        [blocked]
          • 3 Years Ago
          [blocked]
      belldn3
      • 3 Years Ago
      They cars suck.
      bulldogscv
      • 3 Years Ago
      Always had a Honda, Civic, Element, then a 2009 CRV- which just did not do it for me-Traded it in 3 weeks ago for a new Ford Mustang---Loving it!
      drbyers
      • 3 Years Ago
      I have an s2000 and first-generation CR-V sitting in my driveway, and I'd NEVER sell either to buy one of Honda's current crap offerings. Honda sells the ugliest, most uninspiring car line in America right now. i'd buy a Hyundai or a Mazda first. Do you think some stupid racing series is gonna make me change my mind, Honda?
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