It was a question that had been asked a thousand (or more) times before, but there was something in the way Honda president Takanobu Ito was talking on the eve of this year’s Frankfurt motor show that suggested he had more important things on his mind than the new Civic, which was set to be unveiled later in the day.

Shut in a hot, tightly packed hotel room with a dozen journalists, half a dozen assistants and press officers and a trio of management cohorts, Ito repeatedly talked about Honda’s sporting DNA, its proud history in motorsport, and his love of free-revving petrol engines. It came from the heart, and it hinted at something bigger.

So I asked about the possibility of a new NSX – probably the least imaginative question of my career, but one which got an answer with far greater consequences.

The first surprise was that Ito didn’t dismiss the idea out of hand, the second was that he intimated it was a project that was already underway. He then went on to outline the criteria that would dictate the project – chiefly that it should act as a halo model for Honda’s electric technology and focus on lightweight technology rather than outright horsepower.