Special Coverage

SAE World Congress

DETROIT – Honda Motor Co. Ltd. will have an advanced automatic transmission “in a few years,” a high-ranking executive reveals.

The first application will be on an Acura vehicle, Masaaki Kato, president of Honda R&D Co. Ltd., tells Ward’s, but he does not specify the number of gears.

Honda currently offers up to five gears in an automatic, while many of its Japanese, European and U.S. competitors now have 6- and 7-speed gearboxes, or in the case of Toyota Motor Corp., 8-speeds.

A Honda insider told Ward’s last year the auto maker’s growth in the U.S. and other global markets has made it difficult to consistently develop new technology, such as advanced automatic transmissions.

Kato, speaking at the SAE World Congress here on the topic of globalization, emphasizes Honda’s long-time commitment to the environment and challenges other auto makers to join together to help conquer global warming.

Honda is famous for its commitment to small cars and equally small engines. But enthusiasts complain the lack of a V-8 has hamstrung Acura, which still is not viewed by many in the same league as other luxury brands.

When asked if Honda could remain true to its environmental commitment and still offer a V-8, Kato answers indirectly by noting many people think of V-8s as large and not very fuel-efficient.

“If it’s an environmentally friendly V-8, it can be viable,” he says, declining to say whether Honda is working on such an engine.

Kato says Honda will meet the new U.S. corporate average fuel economy standards early, without indicating a timetable. The 35-mpg (6.7- L/100 km) fleet standard is to take effect in 2020.

“It’s not that we’ve got the technology available (to) increase our fuel economy right away,” he says. Rather, Honda will use various technologies, including its variable cylinder-management system.

Kato says Honda also plans to launch two all-new hybrids in coming years, including a small family car and a sports car based on a concept unveiled at the Tokyo auto show last year.

The auto maker also will begin offering its 4-cyl. i-DTEC turbodiesel next year in the U.S., reportedly in the Acura TSX midsize sedan. Its European twin, the Honda Accord, will get the mill this year.

Kato says Honda is working to lessen vehicle weight and improve the aerodynamics of its cars as another means of improving fuel economy.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com