There have been three big buzz words in the car industry for some years - autonomy, electrification and connectivity. If you weren’t at least talking about them, or more likely at least demonstrating that you were doing something about them, you were trailing the pack.
Until this morning, that’s exactly where Honda was - or at least the perception was, because it’s clear from the tech demos and speeches in Japan that the work on at least autonomy and electrification have been well underway for some time, albeit out of sight.
So while it remains clear that Honda lags behind many rivals today - accelerating the roll out of road sign recognition systems and frontal impact avoidance technology that has been on Fords for many a year already isn’t ground-breaking - it is clear that it is committed to not only playing catch up, but in time pushing to take leadership.
Perhaps more significant than what was pledged, however, was the fact that those pledges, came from the mouth of CEO Takahiro Hachigo. He outlined his plans for Honda up to 2030, and underscored its commitment to making it a leader for decades to come - both through exploiting its own core competencies and opening the door to more partnerships with outside firms, such the existing projects it conducts with the likes of GM, or Google’s autonomous offshoot, Waymo.
In terms of talking to the media, Hachigo has had a low-key start to his leadership, which began back in 2015. Yet here he was on stage, engaging and sincere, realistic about current shortcomings and honest about the cost of developing technology on many fronts.
Honda, you feel, is grappling to get back on track, and ready to use the current technology shifts to its advantage. Turning the firm around, especially in Europe, is a huge task, but last week Honda showed that it has the tools to fight, and Hachigo showed that he has the charisma to pull the company with him.