To mark Honda’s 60th anniversary MCN has been granted an exclusive interview with Shigeru Takagi senior managing director of Honda Motor Company Ltd and president of Honda Motor Europe.
Here he talks about the success of the last 60 years and Honda’s plans for an environmentally friendly future.
MCN: What do you see as Honda's biggest achievements over the last 60 years?
“I think we’ve had many good times, and bad times, but to pick one big achievement, it would have to be Honda’s first participation in the Isle of Man TT in 1959 - and also the 1961 TT just three years after, when Honda dominated the top 1st to 5th positions in both the 125 and 250 classes. I think that these were great achievements for Honda and inspiring motivation for the business going forward.
But also, I believe this was not just good for Honda, but also for the whole Japanese society in that it helped give them vitality and a hope for the future as well, during a period in time that was quite tough.
Looking at a broader viewpoint however, there is no doubt that Honda’s biggest achievement has to be providing mobility, and therefore independence, freedom, convenience and joy, to so many people around the world. I think both of these examples show the origin of the Honda spirit - ‘The Power of Dreams.’”
MCN: Honda is known for its market leading innovations, such as the addition of ABS to the CBR600RR and the Fireblade - what can riders expect to see next?
‘Innovation’ is very important to Honda and we have enjoyed leading the way in engineering and technical innovation over the years. As legislation and environmental issues continue in their importance, Honda will ensure that all engine developments not only meet, but exceed, requirements in these areas.
Moreover, we are planning to apply further fuel economy technologies such as Ultra-Low Friction engines for small displacement motorcycles and Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) engines for bigger displacement motorcycles, to create exciting yet environmental-friendly motorcycles in the future.
In this means, in our recent activities, we have applied our Fuel Injection system to our smaller displacement bikes and also applied HFT Transmission to the latest DN-01 for improved fuel economy.
Safety is another other important area. We have been proactive in implementing active safety technologies designed to prevent accidents and passive safety technologies designed to mitigate injuries in the event of an accident. Honda is committed to enhancing motorcycle safety through innovation and this is an area where you will visibly see developments over the next few years.
We will be introducing the Electronically Controlled Combined ABS braking system to the CBR1000RR Fireblade and CBR600RR from early next year and this is an incredibly innovative and world-first step forward for sportsbike use on the road, providing the highest standards in both sport performance and safety performance.
As already seen on GL1800 Goldwing, the development of airbag technology on motorcycles is another area for development as is the advancement of motorcycle recognition through enhanced visibility features and also vehicle communication technologies.
Whilst we have no firm plans as yet, we do have an aspiration to try and create another motorcycle that will have a significant impact on the world, like the Super Cub did.”
MCN: Honda is rumoured to be designing electric bikes. When can we expect to see these on the market?
Today, environmental issues are something that nobody on Earth can ignore. Honda enjoys leading the way and being innovative in its engineering and technological advancements, as well as being committed to environmental issues. Honda is committed to a 2010 Vision of being 'a company that society wants to exist'.
As we progress towards 2010, we will accelerate our plan to develop and provide environmentally friendly mobility. There are two vital challenges for Honda. Firstly, we aim to build our products with as little impact as possible on the earth and its societies.
And secondly, we have a duty to develop new products which have even less effect on the world around us. As you know in our automobile division, we have already made a step forward in this area in terms of new technology with the existing Civic Hybrid and FCX Clarity, with Fuel Cell technology now active in Honda’s cars in the USA and Japan.
Fuel cell technology and electric powered vehicles feature in Honda's technological direction, but for Honda motorcycles this is still in a development stage with no specific information about specifications, timescales, pricing, performance or images available at present.”
MCN: Here in the UK we’ve seen resurgence in scooters, 125s and 250cc bikes. Are you expecting this to become the leading bike market in the UK in the future?
“This is certainly a growing sector and we do expect to see further growth in this area as people look to scooters and motorcycles as a serious alternative to cars and public transport due to the convenience and cost saving benefits that powered two-wheelers have.
This is certainly relevant for young people and the commuter sector, and particularly those in major towns and cities, where a smaller capacity scooter or motorcycle is ideal.”
MCN: As Honda owners get older how are you going to attract younger riders and also change the existing model line-up to reflect older riders?
“It is very important for us to spread our antennas to be in tune with our customers and respond quickly with flexibility to market changes. We have been strengthening our research functions, located in each region worldwide, in order to grasp customers’ fast changing tastes.
For our future product line-up, we plan to continuously provide a broad range of motorcycles to ensure there is a model which is suitable for any age or ability of rider. In the past few years, especially in Europe, we have seen our customers’ priorities change more towards ‘styling’, compared to past decades.
I am sure you have noticed our implementation of this change in our most recent products and we believe Honda has made a positive step forward in this area. But fundamentally, no matter how old or young, Honda’s defined development requirements are quality, reliability and safety, as is bike performance that is suitable to the bike’s use. We will never be confident to recommend our products without these very important items.”
MCN: Which Honda in the current range encapsulates the ethos of the brand most clearly?
“Each motorcycle has its own message and character, however, I can say I truly believe that all of our motorcycle models encapsulate the fundamental ethos of the Honda company principle, as stated by Soichiro Honda in 1956 - ‘Maintaining a global viewpoint, we are dedicated to supplying products of the highest quality yet at a reasonable price for worldwide customer satisfaction.’.
As we came into the 21st century, also around the same time as Honda celebrated our 50th anniversary, we revised the word to ‘global’, from the original ‘international’, viewpoint, to reconfirm our standpoint to help protect the earth and its resources as well.
If you look more specifically at the elements that the Honda brand and reputation is renowned for, these consist of ‘quality’, ‘reliability’, ‘innovation’, ‘advanced technology’, ‘passion’, ‘fun’, and ‘styling’ - all in addition to our company principal. If you touch and ride some of our latest models, including the CBR1000RR Fireblade, CB1000R and DN-01, I trust you will see these qualities.
Honda has achieved some great things over the last sixty years and we now very much look forward to creating products and service that our customers and the wider world will benefit from and enjoy, for the next sixty years and beyond.”