Special Coverage

NADA Convention & Exposition

LAS VEGAS – American Honda Motor Co. Inc. is in no rush to join the battle shaping up in the multipurpose vehicle/people mover market in the U.S., Richard Colliver, executive vice-president-automobile sales, suggests.

After delivering the keynote address here at the 2007 National Automobile Dealers Assn convention, Colliver tells Ward’s Honda has no plans to import the Stream MVP from Japan.

This despite efforts by Kia Motors America Inc. and Mazda North America Operations to stake out new territory with the Rondo and Mazda5, respectively.

“It’s a nice car,” Colliver says of the Stream. “But we’re looking at some other advanced products that we’ll bring in.” This will occur in the “next couple of years,” he adds, without offering detail.

Colliver is similarly guarded about plans for the HR-V cross/utility vehicle, which is smaller than Honda’s CR-V, and a new Acura TSX coupe.

Does he fear the HR-V is too small? The “HR-V is a little smaller,” he says. “We thought the CR-V was too small when we first saw it – we’re going to sell 190,000 of them this year.”

The TSX coupe, he adds, has “been discussed.”

Colliver is less evasive, but not by much, about the prospect of building a Honda product with a V-8 engine. “I think it’s probably time,” he says. “I’d like to have a V-8. There are discussions about it.”

Again, however, he is mum on timing.

“The technology’s there,” Colliver adds, noting the next-generation Acura NSX will feature a V-10. “You’ve got to take all your resources and put things in priority: What do you develop and what’s more important?

“Because if you go into a V-8, you’ve got to change our whole chassis, from front- to rear-drive, and it involves changing our manufacturing process.”

While Honda boasts what is arguably the most flexible assembly process in the world, Colliver remains modest. Converting plants for V-8 production is “a major commitment,” he warns.

Meanwhile, he tells dealers here there is growing consumer interest in new technology. And this technology must “enhance the driving experience,” he tells Ward’s.

“If it’s performance or suspension and handling, something like Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD); the sound system; advanced navigation system; you want the car to be more comfortable for that individual,” Colliver says. “Our research shows (car buyers) are asking for more and more.”

Safety features also have “come way up the list on consideration by consumers,” he adds. Prospective buyers are interested in side airbags and “even pedestrian safety,” he says, referring to features such as the energy-absorbing hood on the Acura MDX midsize CUV.

Colliver also uses his address to remind dealers and auto makers they are “partners,” who need each other to prosper.

“Too often we’re distracted by tactics, instead of focused on values,” he says.

“We square off like opponents when we should join hands. A partnership is defined as two or more people in the same business sharing its profits and risks. But in this industry, we share more than just profit and risk, don’t we? We share the single-most important element of our business: the customer.”

emayne@wardsauto.com