Honda President Says Big Engines Are Dead. Seriously?
While Honda makes everything from power tools to robots to mini-jets, an argument could be made that Honda is an engine company. Every major product line features some sort of fossil-fuel powered motor, and their worldwide success would seem to suggest that Honda knows a thing or two about building a great engine.
However, when the President of Honda Motors, Takanobu Ito, says that the era of big powerful engines is dead, his understanding of the US auto market should be called into question. Here’s the exact quote:
“Sure, there are folks who like that ‘vroom’ of the engine out of nostalgia…But those people are stuck in the past.”
Is Mr. Ito seriously suggesting that future American car buyers won’t want big powerful engines? Big and powerful engines are what American car culture is all about!
First of all, American car culture can be summed up with the following references:
- The movies Transformers, The Fast and The Furious, Back to the Future, American Graffiti, Smokey and The Bandit, Road Warrior, and Bullit sum up our culture’s modern automotive preferences. When you think of the cars in each of these movies, the one you remember will be fast.
- Any vehicle driven by Batman or James Bond.
- The car magazine shelf at your local bookstore.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize the main theme in American car culture is “speed.”
Second, the tendency of American drivers to be territorial is CRITICAL to understanding our car market. Territorial acts like tailgating, cutting other drivers off, blocking other drivers, street racing, etc. are more likely to occur when one vehicle is bigger and/or faster than another. Many Americans buy bigger and/or faster cars because, sub-consciously, they want to either win or prevent these confrontations.
Third, safety fears are profound in America. Americans, as a general rule, tend drive a lot. When you drive a lot, you’re bound to have a car accident. In fact, the typical American will have multiple car accidents in their lifetime. While most accidents will be minor, the fear of injury or death in a car accident is very real. Americans tend to “hedge their bets” by buying a bigger vehicle.
To sum up:
- Our culture values fast cars.
- Our sub-conscious behaviors emphasize big and/or fast cars.
- Our safety fears emphasize big cars.
This all adds up to one point: big engines are here to stay. While some will argue that small engines can power big cars, I disagree. The saying “there’s no replacement for displacement” is as true today as it was 100 years ago. If you want a big and/or powerful car, you need a big engine. All the turbos and variable valve timing in the world can’t compete with an extra 2 or 3 liters of displacement (because it’s all about torque…but that’s another story).
What about gas prices, you say? What about them? Gas prices exploded in the early 70′s and little cars took off. Honda, Toyota, and Nissan cleaned up. Yet once the initial price shock wore off, Americans cozied right back up to their big vehicles. Unless there is a fundamental shift in our desires for big, safe, and powerful cars, any emphasis on small cars and small engines is temporary.
Does this mean that every driver wants a big powerful car with a big engine? Of course not. I’d say that it’s only 30-50% of the market…which is a LOT.
Bottom Line: Until someone invents a cost-effective alternative to the internal combustion engine, Honda’s President is completely wrong. Big engines are far from dead.
Filed Under: TundraHeadquarters.com