For some time, I worked as a vehicle test engineer for a global car company (or, an alliance of car companies). It was during this time I had the pleasure to 'play' around with a Honda Legend(aka Acura RL). That is why I got to buy an RDX once I left the company and headed to the States. I now brought back my silver RDX to my home country(somewhere in Asia, I would not say where). In any case, I, along with many other engineers at various car companies, admire Honda for their 'engineering for the masses' attitude (e.g. sharp handling found in an Accord that is really hard to tune etc).
I recently changed occupation to auto equity analyst (the kind of people you would hear in channels like MSNBC and CNN Money, Wall Street analysts), and as an Acura fan, was saddened to hear that V8 and FR programs were cancelled. Acura, the first Japanese 'luxury' brand, now floundering?
The most critical piece of evidence.
Goldman Sachs automotive report, dated November 2009. 263 pages.
It shows that CO2 has become a key driver of global auto industry.
In short, governments around the world, many of them in Western countries as well as in China, are pushing for lower CO2.
Okay, uh, they all have become eco-converts?
Again, well, no.
This is now a political, economical, and environmental game, something being done on a higher level of this civilization.
The reasons, some of them I suspect, is as below.
1) Recoil against Fossil Fuel that has become a Political Weapon
Iran, Russia, Venezuela, Nigeria, etc etc.
A long list of nations that reap tons of greenbacks from nations around the world when oil prices arise. Also, many of these nations are branded as rogue. The civilization has become overly dependent on oil, and the need to change this has now reached a tipping point.
With the destruction of the Big Three, the US auto industry CAN regain its leadership IF next-gen power train is pushed to the market ASAP.
The winners for current, ICE based auto industry have been determined to be those in Japan and Germany (and may be Koreans as well).
HOWEVER, in new power train field, no one is a clear leader (sans Toyota). If governments helped out its players by mapping a new rule of the game(e.g. regulations), every player will again be on the same starting line. A la starting with a blank piece of paper. It is no surprise that countries that are pushing for stricter CO2 emission regulations have either weak auto industry (US, France) or is just about to start one(China).
No need to explain here.
Again, no need to explain here. Just check your notebook and cell phone batteries, and you can see where we are now with battery technology.
FYI, changing just 20% of all cars in the US with an EV is said to decrease the demand of oil so much as to reduce the price of a barrel of oil to $8 (according to Project Better Place).
Now, our Detroit Motor Show has shown new EVs. Why? Did the market demand it? Well, a weak yes. However, the sudden explosion of EVs shown by makers show that there is a pushing force behind this excitement (at least, superficially) of new product launches are... regulations as dictated by various national powers.
The new era of automotive world is now upon us. Governments want out of now-ever increasing cost-probitive business that is oil-depend economy.
In this respect, the 'smart luxury' line as indicated by Honda for its Acura brand is really a smart move. They are trying to minimize capital expenditures in 'conventional' technology, V8 and FR being one.
In EV terms, having where your motors determine whether a vehicle will be FF, FR or AWD.
Last, Honda was the company that was the first to launch a Japanese luxury brand. They had the balls and brains to do it. However, it has long been their mantra to be efficient, and this alluded them from making trucks, FR cars and V8s for a long time.
With EV and (in the future, hydrogen cars) alternative vehicles, Honda can finally show really efficient cars. Of course, the sales failure of the new Insight is really a downer (Honda DOES need to increase its design and marketing skills no MATTER WHAT), but they will likely get there.
BTW, the GS report says VW, Toyota and Fiat will be the likely winner in this global shakeout in the long term. In the rather short term, they include Honda and Hyundai to be included in the top Five club.