Sales collapse signals the end for rear-drive V8s and hybrid roadster
6 January 2009

The restructuring of Honda’s new model programme that led to the death of the new Honda NSX is much more extensive than previously thought. Honda is completely dismantling its plans for the next two years as it attempts to deal with the rapid collapse in new car sales across the world.

Among the casualties of Honda’s rethink are a range of rear-wheel-drive cars to be sold under the Acura brand, a proposed V8 engine, a successor to the Honda S2000 and a convertible based on the forthcoming Honda CR-Z coupé.

Acura, Honda’s US-market luxury rival for Infiniti and Lexus, has been hit hardest by the changes. Not only has it lost the NSX successor — due to be branded as an Acura but killed off last month — but the programme to develop new rear-drive cars aimed specifically at the BMW 3, 5 and 7-series has also been canned.

The basic planning on the cars had been carried out, and the first model to enter production was to be a BMW 7-series rival, due in 2015. It was meant to provide Honda with a credible alternative to established premium rear-drive brands. The future of the next Honda Legend is also in doubt.

Development of a new V8 engine for the rear-drive cars has also been stopped. The new Honda V8 was seen as the wrong engine at the wrong time, and it was opposed by some Honda engineers who viewed it as too big, heavy and unnecessary. Honda product planners have also had trouble figuring out how to make the engine cost-effective.

It’s not just big cars and big petrol engines that have been wiped out. The proposed drop-top version of the new Honda CR-Z hybrid coupe has been abandoned, along with any successor to the Honda S2000, which will die this year.

The current pair of Honda Accords (one for the US, one for the rest of the world) could also be replaced with a single model; that could save billions in development costs.

Honda is now concentrating on building more hybrids and a new small city car. It aims to build 500,000 hybrids by 2012, including the new Honda Insight and the world’s first hybrid supermini, a petrol-electric Honda Jazz due next year. It should be capable of 80mpg and emit just 90g/km of CO2.

Dan Stevens


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