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2007 Detroit Auto Show Press Conference: Honda Accord Coupe Concept Remarks by John Mendel

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Senior Vice President, Auto Operations American Honda Motor Co., Inc.
2007 North American International Auto Show
January 8, 2007

Hello everyone, and good morning.

You know, year after year, it never ceases to amaze me just how big this show really has become. It's more than just an auto show - it's an industry extravaganza. It's a world stage, on which car companies roll out some their most extravagant concepts or most significant new vehicles.

But from our perspective, the size of a show is determined by the number of news media that attend our events. And I must say...this is an impressive gathering... and we sincerely appreciate your interest. We think your interest will be rewarded this year... and then some.

Over the last couple of years we have unveiled significant all-new entries at opposite ends of the spectrum... with the Ridgeline pickup truck and the subcompact Honda Fit.

This year, our target falls squarely between those two models - in the mid-size segment - the second biggest in the automotive marketplace. So, in a few minutes we plan to provide you a glimpse of the future... of the single most important product in Honda's North American lineup... and a product that has come to define Honda in this market.

But first, I'd like to take this opportunity to update you on the year we just finished - a year that saw the introduction of the all-new CR-V crossover SUV and the Subcompact Honda Fit.

Both the new Fit and CR-V have taken the market by storm delivering the right levels of safety, refinement, flexibility, efficiency, and performance. A unique blend of distinctly Honda attributes that customers really embrace. And the sales numbers support that.

CR-V finished the year up 13.6%, while Fit was sold out for most of the year finishing with sales of 27,934 units. These two new models, plus the addition of the SC to the Element line-up, and a new 4 door version of the hot selling Civic Si, pushed total Honda sales to more than 1.3 million units. Next year, we expect Honda brand sales to exceed 1.36 million units. That's consistent with our philosophy of steady, sustainable growth.

Beyond just sheer sales volume, the past year has seen several other significant Honda accomplishments... Achievements that clearly reinforce our Clean, Safe and Fun brand values and that are consistent with our mission of being a company that society wants to exist.

When it comes to being a clean car company, Honda has staked out a clear leadership position from day one. This is underscored by the fact that Honda is the most fuel efficient car company in America. Fuel economy has been part of our company's strategy from the beginning... not a marketing initiative that rises and falls along with the price of gas.

Perhaps the most striking symbol of Honda's technological and environmental leadership is a vehicle that is both fuel efficient and zero emissions ... the FCX Fuel Cell vehicle... which is the only FCV on the road today that is certified street legal by the U.S. government. This has enabled us to put real customers behind the wheel of the FCX and turn them loose on American roads. And the lessons learned from their experience has helped pave the way for the next generation FCX of the one you see here which will arrive in 2008. You see it's not such a distant tomorrow.

Honda - more than any other car company - has whittled away, one by one, at the barriers to the market viability of fuel cell vehicles ... by addressing the issues of packaging, styling, performance, cold start, and range.

Importantly, Honda is also the only car company with the vision and commitment for overcoming the hydrogen infrastructure barrier with our experimental Home Energy Station, for home refueling.

While we see hydrogen fuel cells as the ultimate solution to CO2 reduction and energy sustainability, Honda is paving the way with several bridge technologies.

We are the only auto manufacturer selling a natural gas vehicle - the Civic GX - to retail customers. This is the cleanest car on the market today... with near zero emissions, and the only one that offers the convenience of home refueling.

On the hybrid front, we have also announced plans to introduce a new hybrid small car in 2009... able to meet the needs of a family, with ultra high fuel efficiency but at a much more affordable price.

On the safety front, the 2007 model year saw the fulfillment of our Safety for Everyone Initiative which includes a core suite of advanced safety technologies on every car.

As a result, not only have we demonstrated that it's possible to enhance the safety of small cars... Honda is the only full-line automaker with a complete line-up of minivans, SUVs and trucks that have earned 5-star safety ratings. That means 5-STAR safety comes standard on all Honda trucks.

Further, this fall, both Pilot and the all-new CR-V earned a Best Pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Please consider that a decade ago, we barely entered the truck market and now we set the industry standard for truck safety.

And this leadership has begun to gain attention... even from those who frequently challenge the auto industry. As reported earlier this year, the president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said that Honda's Safety for Everyone initiative has," pulled the whole industry ahead." We take that as high praise... consistent with our vision of being a company that society wants to exist and an acknowledgment of our leadership.

Now as we look ahead to the 2008 model year we turn our attention to the cornerstone of the Honda model line-up, the Accord.

For Honda, the Accord represents the flagship of our car line-up, and our single best selling model. In fact, total U.S. sales of Accord are approaching 10 million units.

For the industry, Accord has represented the benchmark for more than three decades ... the vehicle every midsize car aspires to be.

But there are other measures. Accord has appeared on Car and Driver magazine's 10-Best list twenty-one times and the current model continues to win comparison tests in magazines and on the showroom floor even in its 5th year on the market... competing head to head against all-new models.

This year marks the 25th year of Honda's U.S. auto production, and Accord was the first Japanese nameplate car to be built in this country. So for many reasons, Accord is perhaps our single most comprehensive expression of Honda's DNA and brand values. And it's about to take on a whole new look.

Ladies and Gentlemen, let's take a first look at what's in store for the future of this iconic Honda...the Accord Coupe Concept.

For the 2008 model year, Accord enters its 32nd year and 8th generation. And before I continue I should tell you that the styling concept you see here is an accurate representation of what the next generation Accord coupe will look like.

While some of our competitors are moving away from coupes, we have a great deal of confidence in the next generation Accord Coupe. In fact, research shows that the coupe segment will once again experience growth- of as much as 34 percent - between now and 2011.

But there's more to our strategy than just volume growth. It's an opportunity to reach out to a young, career-oriented, and loyal buyer. Only 12 percent of Accord sedan buyers are under 30 while more than three times that number, 39 percent of Accord coupe buyers are under 30 years old. So, this will continue to be an extremely important model for us.

The all-new 2008 Accord will arrive in dealerships this Fall - and while it is too early to disclose many details, I can tell you that it will serve as a clear expression of Honda's clean, safe, and fun brand values.

The 2008 Accord will come to market with the next generation of Honda's Variable Cylinder Management technology for a significant improvement in real world fuel economy.

Additionally, the 2008 Accord also will feature something none of its competitors can boast ... the next application of Honda's Advanced Compatibility Engineering- or ACE - body structure. This means that approximately 90 percent of Honda cars sold in the U.S. will feature this unique, important and industry-leading technology. This is another one of those technologies we hope the entire industry will follow.

Of course, what has put Accord on the 10-best list for more than two decades... is the fact that it has always been fun. And this vehicle is no exception... making the same quantum leap forward that the all new Civic did last year... With Fun in terms of bold new styling... Fun in terms of offering a sporty coupe variant.... And fun in terms of offering the driver a rewarding, engaging, and exhilarating driving experience.

The next generation model promises to elevate the Accord driving experience to an even higher level. Viewed together... the elegant combination of these attributes--along with the refinement, quality and low cost of ownership that defines Accord ... is again what will make it an industry benchmark.

It's therefore our intention to bring the next generation Accord to market as the boldest ... roomiest ... most refined ... and most exhilarating car in the segment. Indeed, a new benchmark.

As we get closer to the launch ... more details will become available. But with a powerful stance, long hood, deeply sculpted lower body, and a fast roofline, we think what you see here today represents a bold new styling direction for the entire Accord lineup.

Thank you again for joining us, and I hope you enjoy the rest of the show.