Who needs a formal press conference in Paris to announce new global model plans? Honda apparently doesn’t. During a speech outlining Honda’s future market plans – including a goal of selling 6 million cars annually by the 2017 fiscal year – CEO Takanobu Ito touched on and confirmed a number of new products that are still in the pipeline.
-Acura RLX: we already knew a fair amount about the forthcoming replacement for the aging RL, but Ito confirmed the completed, production-ready 2014 Acura RLX will make its public debut at the Los Angeles auto show in November, and on sale here in early 2013. It’ll be sold as the Honda Legend in Japan starting in 2014.
Power will be provided by a 310-hp, direct-injection 3.5-liter V-6. Buyers will have the choice between a front-wheel-drive RLX model boasting all-wheel steering, or a all-wheel-drive model that incorporates Honda’s new, three-motor Hybrid SH-AWD driveline.
Honda also says that all other Acuras will be “renewed within the next three years.” Seeing as the RDX, ILX, and RLX are all-new, that essentially leaves the TL, TSX, MDX, and ZDX open for an overhaul. We doubt the TSX will be renewed for another generation: not only does it brush against the new ILX, but Honda doesn’t plan on crafting a new Accord for the European market – which essentially leaves that product line dead in the water.
-Civic Type R: Honda’s European press agency confirmed one a poorly-kept secret: an all-new Civic Type R is under development, and will be designed and sold primarily for European customers. We still don’t know if the new Type R will ditch its traditional supercharger in favor of a turbocharger, but Honda does note it borrows technology from its WTCC race cars — and the company recently showcased a turbocharged engine for its next-gen Civic racer. Honda also aims for the Type R to become the fastest front-wheel-drive vehicle to lap the Nurburgring. Honda is expected to show a Type R preview concept at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show in March, but the production car won’t be on sale until 2015.
-Fit/ Fit Crossover: As previously reported, an all-new Fit subcompact is just around the corner. This is Honda’s true global car, but the next-generation model will be even more international. In an attempt to keep costs low, manufacturing will be performed in or close to markets across the globe. For instance, all U.S.-market Fit models will be built in a new plant in Celaya, Mexico.
Honda plans to initially launch the Fit in Japan in 2013, but a U.S.-market model – along with a new crossover variant – will be introduced within the following two years. The Celaya plant should start cranking out U.S.-spec Fit models in the spring of 2014.
-Microcar Onslaught: Honda has big plans for super-small cars. Ito notes it will launch six new “mini-vehicles” for the Japanese market by 2015. One example, the N-One, is patterned after the N Concept 4 and EV-N concepts, and is in turn inspired by the Honda N360 of the late 1960s. The retro-shaped hatchback should square off against the Mini hatchback and Fiat 500, though it’s unlikely to make its way to North America any time soon.
If that’s not small enough, Honda also wants to further develop the idea of a micro-commuter car, much like the concept it showed at the 2011 Tokyo motor show. That design, which boasted seating for three and an all-electric powertrain, could compete squarely with the miniscule Nissan Pivo EV. No timeframe was given for production, but Honda aims to test such products in Japan sometime in 2013.
Additionally, Honda promised new variants developed from the Brio, a low-cost B-segment car first launched in late 2010. Designed to appeal in price-sensitive emerging markets, the Brio first debuted as a five-door hatchback, but Honda says both a conventional four-door sedan and a “utility” model – likely a small crossover – are also on the way.
-New Beat: Both the 2008 OSM and 2011 EV-STER concepts hinted Honda was interested in revisiting the idea of a compact, two-place roadster. Now it’s official: Ito noted the brand will launch a new open-top sports car – “with strong vehicle dynamics” – as part of its six-car microcar offensive.
As Motor Trend reported in late 2011, the new car – likely to revive the Beat moniker – could utilize either a 1.3-liter or 1.5-liter I-4 with VTEC. A hybrid driveline is unlikely, though the car could utilize a dual-clutch transmission. Honda says the car should go on sale in Japan in 2014, but its global market roll-out – if any – remains a mystery.
- Hydrogen Fuel Cells: Think Honda’s recent focus on electric and hybrid-electric vehicles means it’s forgotten or abandoned the idea of a fuel cell vehicle? Think again. Ito confirmed today an all-new fuel cell vehicle will debut in 2015, and allegedly is more advanced and less expensive than the present FCX Clarity.
Honda says it will offer the new fuel cell vehicle in Japan, Europe, and the U.S. The 2015 target date means it could square off against a production hydrogen fuel cell vehicle from Toyota, which is also scheduled to debut in 2015.
-Hybrids: Honda will ultimately use three different hybrid driveline systems, allowing the company to match “characteristics depending on the model in order to fulfill the needs of more customers.”
We’ve seen Honda roll out two new hybrid systems in recent months. The fanciful Hybrid SH-AWD is essentially the company’s piece de resistance, and will be used on both the Acura RLX luxury sedan and the NSX super car. A new two-motor hybrid system, which can function as both a series and parallel hybrid, was recently introduced on the 2014 Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid.
Honda’s traditional single-motor Integrated Motor Assist system – presently found on the Civic Hybrid, Insight, and CR-Z – will apparently still be used in the future, but it will be revised to allow for electric-only operation.