More MBS Coverage TRAVERSE CITY, MI – With Japanese engineers working on the Civic sedan and U.S. engineers developing the coupe and Si, Honda Motor Co. Ltd. will be able to bring both models to market at the same time this fall in both countries.

The '01 Civic coupe came out two months behind the sedan. But through use of digital prototype modeling (DPM), Honda was able to have engineers working around the clock on the new compact vehicles, with the Ohio engineers sending questions to Japanese counterparts in the evening and receiving a response the next morning.

Charles Allen

“This (DPM) technology helped turn a disadvantage - the distance between Japan and the U.S. - into an advantage,” says Charles Allen, senior vice president-Honda R&D Americas, here at the Management Briefing Seminars.

“At key points in the development, changes occur so quickly, with action on both sides, that work is happening 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” says Allen. “In some cases key components were jointly developed.”

The design of a new intake system, which required changes to Civic's engine layout, was handled in Ohio, but the drawings were done in Japan, where engineers led the powertrain development, Allen says.

The Civic Si concept was shown at the 2005 Chicago auto show.

“We actively shared data via DPM,” he says. “Then the appropriate team members from both sides worked face-to-face at key points – both at our proving centers in the U.S. and in Japan – driving the car together to confirm that both sides understood what was required.”

Ten of the Civic coupe and Si's project team leaders are in their late 20s and early 30s. Allen says this was intentional, considering the criticism the current-generation Civic coupe received for being too stodgy for young buyers, who once flocked to the Civic.

“I would say yes, (we put younger engineers in charge), just speaking from the standpoint of what we want to do with Civic,” Allen says of Honda's desire to win back the tuner crowd.

Several team members are known driving enthusiasts, and the assistant project leader for the U.S. program owns both an '84 and '92 Civic, keeping the '84 in the “garage to keep it in pristine condition,” he says.

Two of the team members are motorsport experts who helped build and race “a nearly stock Acura TL that won its class at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill endurance race,” Allen says.

Meanwhile, reacting to reports out of Japan that Honda plans to develop a V-8 for the Honda Ridgeline sport/utility truck, Allen says it is unlikely the U.S. would be involved in such a powerplant if it were to occur.

“While we've said R&D is in local markets to look at the customer base and basically tailor products to meet those customer needs, we haven't duplicated powertrain,” he says. “Powertrain remains primarily based in Japan because of the technology, the machines required and the expertise.”

Allen says Honda adapts engines for the North American market due to different regional driving scenarios.

cschweinsberg@primediabusiness.com