John Mendel – Executive Vice President, American Honda Motor Co., Inc.
Good afternoon everyone and thanks for joining us.
A year ago on this stage we declared 2015 as “The Year of Honda.” And honestly, it wasn’t intended as a big brag, but rather as an acknowledgement of what was to come, an incredible cadence of new products that reflected the really big dreams we have for our customers.
Today, we culminated this extraordinary year with the North American Car of the Year award for the 2016 Honda Civic Sedan. And we very humbly want to thank all of the journalists who selected the Civic for this honor and who nominated our Honda Pilot as a finalist for truck of the year. Tony Swan summed it up best this morning when he said that there are no bad cars anymore. And I want to acknowledge the competition we faced from the other finalists from Chevy, and Mazda, and the host of other great new products. Ten years ago, we accepted this award for the 2006 Civic.
This all-new 2016 Civic was the most ambitious remake in the 43-year history of our top-selling vehicle globally. And I want to thank our R&D associates in Ohio, California and Japan and our manufacturing associates in Canada and Indiana who worked as one Honda team to create this all-new Civic.
Fortunately, it’s not the end of the story for our 10th generation Civic because we’ll continue to rollout additional variations of the Civic lineup this year and next.
Of course, the Year of Honda also was brought to life in pinnacle products like HondaJet, the Acura NSX and Clarity Fuel Cell and innovative new products that we delivered to our customers.
That includes not only the award-winning Civic, but the HR-V, our new gateway crossover model, a third-generation Pilot, which today is the fastest growing model in a very competitive segment, the ’16 Accord, which we’re proud to claim as a Car and Driver 10 Best car for an unprecedented 30th year.
Of course, we were also happy to report last week that we posted a new all-time sales record for total American Honda and for the Honda brand in 2015. And we did it our way, with innovative, class-defining products sold one customer, one car at a time. And employing marketing strategies that reinforce our customers’ trust in Honda products that are consistently at the top of rankings for low cost of ownership and long-term value retention.
In fact for the third straight year we’ve earned retail sales crowns in four key segments. Accord, Civic, CR-V and Odyssey, and CR-V racked up its 11th year and 3rd consecutive year as America’s outright best-selling SUV.
With a record 2015 behind us, we will look to carry our ‘Year of Honda’ momentum into 2016, with what Merrill-Lynch has identified as the most ambitious new product cadence in the business, including the continued roll out of our 10th-generation Civic lineup and an even more powerful and fuel efficient Accord Hybrid.
But what brings us here today is another addition to our truck line-up, one that will benefit from the steady drumbeat that started with the launch of the freshened CR-V in 2014, and was followed by the launch of the HR-V and Pilot last year.
Today, we have the world debut of the newest addition to the Honda truck lineup.
And to take us there, it is my pleasure and honor to welcome someone who knows a thing or two about Honda light truck products. A veteran of Honda R&D who helped lead the development of several iconic Honda models for North America including Odyssey and CR-V.
Today, he leads Global Honda bringing to the challenge a wealth of experience gained from his work in Japan, Europe, China and right here in the U.S.
Please welcome the president and CEO of Honda Motor Company, Mr. Takahiro Hachigo.
Takahiro Hachigo – President and CEO, Honda Motor Co., Ltd
And good afternoon, everyone.
I want to begin by thanking the members of the media who selected Civic as the Car of the Year. Civic was created by a global team with Honda’s R&D and manufacturing teams in North America playing a key role. Thank you for recognizing their efforts.
Honda is a different kind of company. We make many types of products and technologies. Some give people mobility. Some make their lives easier by helping them “get things done.” Some give people joy and excitement.
We see our purpose as making things that change people’s lives in a positive way. This is the reason Honda exists. And my commitment and my passion is to rekindle this as the core value of Honda to our customers and society. This can mean big dreams.
And we reached a major milestone in the history of Honda taking Honda mobility to the skies with the first customer deliveries of the Honda Jet.
This year, we will launch the new Clarity Fuel Cell first in Japan in just a few months and later this year in America. This new platform will underpin a new Plug-in Hybrid model coming to market by 2018, as we build momentum for these pinnacle environmental vehicles. But creating new value for people requires innovation on many levels.
Years ago, the Honda Odyssey was this kind of project. We were not creating just a new vehicle. It was the foundation for a new business direction for Honda. And step-by-step we have continued to advance our light truck business. This steady growth, powered by Honda R&D and manufacturing operations in this region has enabled us to meet the needs of our customers.
And last year, Honda associates in North America set a new record for both auto production and sales. I am very proud of their efforts.
But the expansion of production across all six Honda regions in the world presents us with new challenges to manage.
In the coming days, we will work to advance a “complementary supply system” to meet the needs of customers in each local market and, supplement the needs of customers in other regions.
This year, we will begin to supply customers here with the Civic 5-door from Europe. And we have added the HR-V to the number of models we export from this region to Europe.
We also must make more efficient use of our existing capacity in North America. To create more capacity for light truck models, last year, we announced a plan to dual source the Acura MDX in Ohio.
Today, we are announcing plans to change production at our first plant in Mexico from CR-V to HR-V to meet demand for our new crossover. And we will add production of the CR-V in Indiana.
In this way, we will work to meet strong demand for our light truck products. This will enable us to continue to grow in North America, the largest and most important market for Honda globally.
Today, we take the next step in this effort with the introduction of the 2nd generation Ridgeline.
I was working in the U.S. when the first generation Ridgeline broke new ground. Unique features like the in-bed storage trunk and a 2-way tailgate were simple ideas to make people’s lives easier. And this helped Ridgeline win the Truck of the Year award 10 years ago.
Now, the all-new Ridgeline will propose new ideas from Honda engineers in America for what a pickup truck can do for people.
Ladies and gentlemen it is my pleasure to introduce the all-new 2017 Honda Ridgeline.
John Mendel – Executive Vice President, American Honda Motor Co., Inc.
The words “cool, tough and athletic” define this refreshing new look for the pickup segment. This new Ridgeline also brings our unique technology and original thinking to the market in a new and challenging concept for a Honda pickup.
But at the same time, it’s more traditional 3-box truck profile better communicates its true-truck capabilities. Because, let me be clear here, this is a real truck, with payload and hauling capabilities that rival the top competitors in the midsize pickup segment.
This Ridgeline isn’t just about doing what other trucks can do, it’s about creating new value and new capability for the customer.
On the turntable is a silver RTL-E model and it’s flanked on the left by our new Black Edition that will serve as a new top trim in the lineup.
On the right is our Baja Ridgeline, fresh off its class-winning performance in the 2015 Baja 1000.
In developing this new Ridgeline we looked across the full spectrum of today’s truck and SUV buyers, and for many customers, their truck isn’t about the job site, it’s about their active, outdoor lifestyles. That means weekend sporting events and tailgates, runs to the desert or out to the country with your dirt bikes and family and friend excursions to the mountains or the lake with toys in tow.
For these buyers, the capabilities of a pickup, mainly hauling and towing dirty and bulky cargo, come with a whole bunch of fundamental compromises inherent to their body-on-frame designs. So what do we mean by that? Lack of interior flexibility, everyday drivability, maneuverability and road manners, to name a few.
For these buyers, we think we’ve got a better idea, a truck that uses its unibody construction and Honda packaging magic to deliver more of the things they really want in a truck, with none of the things they really don’t.
So let’s dig into the details a bit more, starting with our Global Light Truck platform, both rigid and lightweight, with advanced collision protection and a sophisticated and sturdy fully independent suspension.
The reality is that most truck buyers spend the vast majority of their time on the road where body-on-frame construction is nothing but a punishment. Ridgeline comes to the rescue with a level of ride comfort, steering precision, maneuverability and handling that far surpasses the competition.
Under the hood the Ridgeline is powered by the same great 3.5-liter i-VTEC V6 that powers the new Pilot. With this new powertrain, Ridgeline will deliver medium-duty towing capability in combination with the best acceleration andthe highestfuel economy in the midsize truck segment.
And for the first time, our expanded Ridgeline lineup also will include the option of front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive. And AWD models will employ our i-VTM4 system with Intelligent Terrain Management featuring Snow, Mud and Sand modes. It’s the only active torque vectoring system in the midsize pickup market.
The innovation continues on the inside, where Ridgeline offers the largest cabin space in the midsize segment, with a higher level of comfort and sophistication than anything in the market today.
And with its split-folding rear seat and class leading under-seat storage, Ridgeline can handle just about any combination of people and cargo you can imagine. It’s the most versatile packaging in the segment.
Moreover, Ridgeline will offer all the latest and greatest tech that we have to offer, everything you see here, including Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto™ compatibility.
And with our next-generation ACE™ body structure and available Honda Sensing™ suite of advanced safety and driver-assistive technologies, Ridgeline will target the highest available NCAP and IIHS crash test ratings.
In back, in the bed, the Ridgeline gets bigger, better in every imaginable way. The longer, wider bed, with the only 5-foot wide flat bed space in the segment, is ideally suited for hauling plywood or drywall.
And while we’re still finalizing payload capacity, we expect it to rival best in the segment, approaching 1,600 pounds.
Add to that eight 350-pound tie downs and a new bed-side storage compartment with an available 400-watt A/C power port, to charge your power tools, your tailgate blender or a flat screen TV, whatever you’re in to.
And like the original, we’ve retained and improved on two of Ridgeline’s most innovative and still truck-exclusive features that Hachigo-san mentioned a moment ago, the dual-action tailgate, and lockable In-Bed Trunk. But this time around, the In-Bed Trunk adds a fully flat floor to make that post-game cleanup even easier.
And keeping with the tailgate theme, we’ve got another industry first feature, the world’s first In-Bed Audio System. Now, you can’t see it, there are no speakers to get bashed and scraped when you’re hauling mulch or lumber. But you can hear it. Especially with its 540-watt audio system, it’s good old-fashioned Honda engineering magic.
Next up for Ridgeline is a starring role in Honda’s big commercial in Super Bowl 50.
It’s the Honda of trucks, fully capable and confident, but altogether new and innovative.
Thanks everyone for your time and attention here this afternoon.