MAR 05th 2015

GENEVA Q & A WITH HONDA: FROM THE GARDEN CENTRE TO THE GRID (AGAIN)

The past few years have been tough for Honda – and tougher still for fans of Honda high performance as (on four wheels at least) there hasn’t been any high performance…

Three new Hondas on the stand at the Geneva Show are out to change that – the British-built Type R, the US-developed and made NSX and the engine in the back of Jenson’s and Fernando’s 2015 McLaren MP4-30 F1 car.

They have all been done before of course but, in typically enigmatic Honda fashion, not for a while. Continuity never was Honda’s strength. But we all know that when Honda engineers finally get their act together the results can be sensational.

What does it all mean to Honda in the UK? Who better to ask than the MD, Philip Crossman…

Honda MD Philip Crossman Geneva

A good day in Geneva for you today?

I have been coming to motor shows for 35 years and this morning was the most excited I have ever been. Today is the start of a new era at Honda.

You have a lot of catching up to do, can the Type R and NSX deliver?

They will certainly help. The company was stung over criticisms that it was dull and bland, (not good for) a company as edgy and different as Honda. One of the challenges we have is that from being at the back of the pack we are suddenly right at the front.

The UK image is still more garden centre than motor racing grid?

Absolutely. The Type R and NSX will transform people’s perceptions of the brand. But also having our historic machines at the Festival of Speed has been good. And we are in Moto GP, there’s a world superbike team coming next year, we are in F1 this year and world touring cars and British touring cars. I am 90 per cent sure the new Type R will be in BTCC this year, with Team Dynamics.

Has Matt Neal driven the new Type R yet?

Not yet but he will be very soon.

You have said you want the Type R to be the fastest front-driver around the Nurburgring and a development car has set a time of 7mins 50.63secs – does anyone really care?

If you are thinking of buying a Type R or a Megane or a Golf R then I think it is a factor that influences [the decision]. That time is almost as fast as Niki Lauda in his F1 car in 1975.

Will you keep coming back if Seat and Renault go faster?

As long as it is commercially viable I think we will. The danger is if you keep chipping away at it you lose sight of why you are doing it. Then there’s no value to it.

How many Type Rs and NSXs will you have to sell for them to be a success in the UK?

NSX, perhaps 20-30 a year…it’s not a commercial package. The NSX is about the brand showing what it can do. Globally that car will be sold out for its entire life. If we can sell 1200 Type Rs in the UK that will be a storming success.

How much will the NSX cost in the UK?
I won’t work on that until October-November time. Where will I pitch it? It’s got to be around Nissan GT-R, Porsche 911, maybe Ferrari territory. The challenge is how much will people pay for a Honda?

Why does Honda walk away from its successes so often?

I don’t know. It’s a frustration for us. We call it creating product orphans.

You’ve now brought some ‘orphans back, so what about a new S2000?

That was a wonderful car. I would love that back. I wouldn’t bet against it in next five to 10 years.

Anything else on your wishlist for the UK?

The future is more technology than new models. I will take the engine route – small petrol turbos, hybrids – over a new model every day of the week.

 Jenson Button McLaren Honda Geneva 2015

Got your F1 pass lined up for the year?

If I get to two races I will be very happy. I am a big F1 fan and a big Jenson Button fan. The way Jenson has lifted the spirits of our dealer network is wonderful, like a light going on.

Your insider’s take on how the McLaren-Honda is going?

I think it will be hard work this year and we’ll be unlikely to win races. There won’t be any problems with the power, that will be phenomenal, and the chassis is okay. But with the lack of testing so much of our development will be on race day. I suspect flashes of brilliance and some frustrating times.

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