Is Honda’s decision to can the next NSX motivated by prudence or myopia? As a fan of the original I bow to no-one, so perhaps my vision is more rose-tinted than it should be, but I incline strongly towards the latter view.
The NSX is the car that changed the supercar landscape. It might not have sold very well over here (even though it did succeed elsewhere and in the US particularly), but the value of such cars can never be counted in sales figures alone. It became the supercar benchmark: when Gordon Murray was designing the McLaren F1, he didn’t look at Ferraris and Lamborghinis, he looked at – then drove, then bought – an NSX, which he then kept as his everyday car for years.
Before the NSX, Ferrari’s staple was the fairly awful 348, which transformed soon afterwards into the really rather wonderful F355, and I have no doubt which car gave Maranello the kick up the backside that it sorely needed.
No one will ever be able to calculate how much kudos the NSX rained down on Honda’s head as a company of outstanding innovation and engineering excellence any more than we’ll ever know how much damage will now be done to that reputation now that its replacement has been killed.
But the bit I really don’t get is why it’s been axed. Clearly the market is in terrible trouble at the moment, but it will recover as it always has, and when it does the cars that enthusiasts with money will want to buy will be lightweight, ultra-efficient and usable every day.
These are precisely the values upon which the NSX set out its stall when it was first shown almost exactly 20 years ago. If it was a three-tonne SUV Honda was culling I’d understand in an instant, but the very fact that Honda kept the old car in production for 15 years – for much of it as a loss-leader – showed how important the light it cast was to the brand.
But today the values upon which the NSX was conceived have been tossed aside in pursuit of what Honda’s boss describes as ‘achieving mass-market penetration as soon as possible…’ It’s an attitude I’d expect from many faceless corporations, but from a company that built a proud and wholly deserved reputation through pure engineering integrity, it makes me shudder.