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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