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Sport Hybrid Gives Muscle Honda CR-Z Long Needed

Hatchback gets supercharged boost from HPD performance division.

by on Aug.21, 2014

The supercharger package for the Honda CR-Z Sport Hybrid adds some chassis and appearance upgrades to the hp boost from the new blower.

(This story has been updated to include torque numbers, and information about fuel economy changes.)

Long in promise, short in performance, that’s been the widely voiced complaint about the Honda CR-Z since the hatchback hybrid was first introduced four years ago this month. But the Japanese maker plans to correct that problem with the help of its Honda Performance Development, or HPD, division.

The street performance division has come up with a new dealer-installed supercharger package that will deliver a more than 50% boost to the standard-issue CR-Z pony count. The performance punch won’t come cheap, however, Honda setting the price for the 2015 CR-Z Sport Hybrid kit at $5,495 – plus dealer installation fees.

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“The CR-Z was the first hybrid to prove that efficiency doesn’t have to come at the cost of sportiness and fun,” said Art St. Cyr, president of Honda Performance Development. “With HPD street performance accessories, including the new supercharger kit, the CR-Z will surprise everyone again with even higher levels of performance directly inspired by our on-track racing efforts.”


Honda Emphasizing Turbocharging, Engine Downsizing

CVTs, new 8-speed DCT play major role; U.S. diesel not a priority.

by on Nov.19, 2013

Honda has big plans for its three new turbo engine packages, including a 2.0-liter I-4 that will go into Europe's Civic Type R for 2015.

As its middle name was meant to attest, Honda Motor Co. has always put a premium on powertrain technology – though until recently, it has emphasized naturally aspirated gasoline engines and basic hybrid systems.  But that is changing fast.

Already in the midst of rolling out a trio of new hybrid drivetrains, Honda also is pushing forward with turbocharging, senior company officials announced, during a media tour of the maker’s Tochigi R&D center and corporate headquarters where they showed off three downsized turbo engine packages.  Turbos will soon be used in a wide variety of the maker’s products, from the little Fit all the way up to the new Acura NSX supercar.

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The three new turbo engines will be paired with an assortment of new transmissions, including Honda’s latest CVT and an all-new 8-speed dual clutch, or DCT, being developed to blend the smoothness of an automatic, the performance of a manual and the fuel economy of a CVT.

Along with the launch of the three conventional hybrid systems, the plug-in hybrid now used in the Honda Accord and the battery-electric version of the Fit, Honda powertrain engineers are stretched thin, conceded Tetsuo Iwamura, the Chief Operating Officer for American Honda as well as the COO of Honda Motor’s global automotive operations. That’s one reason why the maker is reluctant, right now, to commit to developing a diesel engine for the U.S. market.


Acura Hoping Hybrid Version Can Charge Up Sluggish Sales of ILX Model

2014 remake of ILX Hybrid to start just under $30,000.

by on Oct.16, 2013

The 2014 Acura ILX Hybrid's new single-motor gas-electric drivetrain delivers up to 38 mpg Combined.

The new Acura ILX Hybrid has charged into dealer showrooms.  The question is whether anyone will notice.

Aimed at entry-luxury buyers, the ILX seems to have missed out on what has generally become the fastest-growing segment in the high-line market. But with increasing interest in “green” technology among the younger buyers fueling that growth, Acura is hoping the ILX will finally plug in.

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The new hybrid model will carry a relatively modest $2,000 price premium over a comparable, gas-powered Acura ILX, at a base MSRP of $29,795. Equipped with the Tech Package – which includes such nicety as satellite radio, navigation with real-time traffic, and an upgraded audio system — the price jumps to $35,495. Both figures include $895 in destination charges.

Even the base model will carry such upscale touches as keyless entry, push-button start, a moonroof, alloy wheels, Bluetooth, Pandora radio and an Active Noise Cancellation system. But the EPA Combined rating of 38 mpg is expected to be an equally important selling point.


Honda Investing $215 Million in Ohio Operations

Maker funding "Earth Dreams" engine plant.

by on Aug.08, 2013

Workers assemble an Earth Dreams engine at the Honda plant in Anna, Ohio.

Honda will invest $215 million in Ohio, the center of its North American operations, primarily to expand its engine-making capabilities.

The Japanese maker is in the midst of rolling out an array of hybrid and more conventional gasoline engines designed to cope with stricter new emissions and fuel economy regulations. The new package brings to $500 million the total investment in the Anna, Ohio engine plant during just the last three years.

The new investment also will cover training programs for the workers building Honda’s new “Earth Dreams Technology” engines and transmissions, noted Rick Schostek, senior vice president of Honda North America, Inc., during a presentation at an industry conference in Traverse City, Michigan.

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“Even as we introduce more sophisticated technologies in our products and in our plants, we are working to ensure that our associates are equipped with the skills required for the manufacturing requirements of the future,” said Schostek. “We view this investment in Honda people as critical to our future success.”


Honda To Reveal Civic Wagon Concept in Geneva

Will it make the jump to the U.S. market?

by on Feb.06, 2013

The Honda Civic Wagon will likely feature a hybrid drivetrain when it charges into Geneva.

Europeans love wagons.  Americans, well, the automotive media seem to have a fixation on the two-box designs but, despite repeatedly optimistic forecasts, consumers have yet to regain the love affair with a design that peaked during the Baby Boom era.

No wonder, then, that Honda is taking its Civic Wagon Concept to the Geneva Motor Show for its debut. The maker has provided a sketch that “provides strong cues for the exterior design of the final mass produced version,” it says.

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It expects the Civic derivative to further strengthen the compact line-ups position in the hotly competitive European market. What it doesn’t say is whether it will be bringing the production model to the U.S. Las Vegas would probably give odds that it won’t.  But even more surprising things have happened.


Honda Reveals Three Separate New Hybrid Systems

One size no longer fits all, each targets different purpose, including high-performance NSX.

by on Nov.13, 2012

The Acura NSX supercar will use one of three new Honda hybrid systems when it returns around 2014.

So far, most hybrid systems have been designed as one-size-fits-all technology.  Sure, a few software tweaks might shift emphasis from mileage to performance, but the approach led to significant compromises when the same hybrid driveline was used across a maker’s entire product line.

No longer, at least not for Honda. As part of its new Earth Dreams powertrain strategy, the maker plans to use three distinctly different hybrid systems. That will allow the maker to choose the one that appropriately reflects the price, capabilities – and performance of the vehicle the system will be used in.

The next-generation Acura NSX, for example, will adopt a distinctive, three-motor Sport Hybrid Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive, or SH-AWD, hybrid that will not only boost the sports car’s fuel efficiency but introduce an electric torque-vectoring system to improve handling.

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Honda was the first to introduce a hybrid vehicle into the U.S. market – launching its original Insight in Japan about the same time as the Toyota Prius debuted. But Honda has had far less luck penetrating the emerging market than its bigger rival. It pulled the first-generation Insight due to slow sales and not experiencing much better success with the current version.


Revolution on Wheels: Honda’s New Hybrid SH-AWD System

Maker looking to transform its powertrain line-up.

by on Dec.08, 2011

Honda is coming up with a 3-motor hybrid version of its SH-AWD system

It’s been a tough year for Honda: earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, production shortages.  And bad reviews.  The maker has taken a series of dings from the likes of Consumer Reports, no less, which panned its latest Civic model.  In some ways, that’s worse than the sharp downturn in Honda earnings in recent months. spent the better part of a week with mid-level and senior executives, all the way up to President and CEO Takanobu Ito to get an inside look at the company’s turnaround plans – which include a rapid fix of the much-maligned new Honda Civic.  But much of the effort revolves around a dramatic transformation of the Honda powertrain line-up. This is, after all, a company that likes to say it’s in the business of building engines, first and foremost.

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The new line-up includes both advanced gasoline and alternative propulsion systems – one of the most intriguing being a gas-electric version of Honda’s innovative Super Handling-All-Wheel-Drive system, or SH-AWD, a 3-motor system that we had a chance to take for the proverbial spin on the Twin-Ring Motegi race track a few hours outside Tokyo.


Honda Looks Beyond New Fit EV

Maker isn’t plugging all eggs into one electric basket.

by on Nov.18, 2011

Honda will begin leasing the Fit EV for $399 a month next summer, in California and Oregon.

Honda took the wraps off its first battery-electric vehicle, the2013 Honda  Fit EV, which will roll into showrooms in select markets next summer.

But the Japanese maker, an early pioneer in hybrid technology, is clearly not ready to plug all its eggs into one electric basket.  While it will expand its battery car efforts, company officials stress they’re not walking away from other alternative powertrain solutions – which range from natural gas to hydrogen, as well as even cleaner gasoline engines.

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“We don’t know if the answer is electric or hydrogen or natural gas,” cautioned Mike Accavitti, the maker’s U.S. marketing chief, “so, at Honda, we’re working on all of them.”

Honda has opted for a lease-only approach for the Fit EV, the base car planned to carry a $399 monthly charge based on an estimated $36,625 MSRP.


Fuel Prices Up, Hybrid Sales Down

Blame the March 11 disaster. But rising hybrid prices also a factor.

by on Jun.06, 2011

Prius sales fell 51% in May and shortages were only part of the problem for Toyota.

Fuel prices are up and closing on record levels, but U.S. hybrid sales have slumped to their lowest level s in 16 months, with few signs of any imminent improvement.

Put much of the blame on the March 11 disaster in Japan that has led to a massive drop in production of key models like the Toyota Prius, the world’s best-selling hybrid, industry analysts suggest.  But soaring prices may have also been a factor.

That’s one reason why, even with a more normal supply, hybrids could continue losing ground.  There are now plenty of high-mileage alternatives on the market using diesel as well as more conventional gasoline powertrains, the latter not saddled with the hefty premium typical of hybrid vehicles.

“For those selling hybrids, it is incredibly bad luck that the Japanese earthquake and associated production disruptions occurred as gas prices were reaching their highest levels in three years,” said Lacey Plache, the chief economist at

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The March 11 earthquake and tsunami virtually shut down the Japanese auto industry for a month.  Since then, however, production has been running well below normal, especially in the home market, the only source of many key hybrids, like the Prius.  “Real and imagined supply constraints” appear to have been a key factor in the May hybrid sales slump, according to Plache.


Honda Named “Greenest Automaker”

Union of Concerned Scientists cites maker for 5th time.

by on Oct.08, 2010

The Honda FCX fuel-cell vehicle produces no emissions whatsoever when fueled from a solar-powered hydrogen pump.

Honda has been named the Greenest Automaker by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the fifth time the group has given the honor to the Japanese maker.

The award honors the company whose U.S. motor vehicle fleet produces the lowest levels of smog-forming and greenhouse gas emissions.

“Honda’s decade-long claim to the Greenest Automaker title has set a high bar for the industry,” said Jim Kliesch, a senior engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists.

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The science-based non-profit previously named Honda Greenest Automaker in 2007, 2004, 2002 and 2000.

Taking such a title might have meant relatively little in the early years but has become an increasingly important honorific – and marketing tool.