Gearhead: Hiroshi Shimizu, Honda Cars Philippines president

On surviving the economic downturn, overhauling the City, and competing with Korean and Chinese small cars
Apr 24, 2009
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You just launched the all-new Jazz, and now comes the all-new City. You must be very optimistic about 2009 in spite of the global financial crisis, right?
I want to say yes. However, our business environment is getting tougher and tougher every day. I think it will be a difficult year for all of us in 2009.

The new City is obviously so much more attractive than the old model. But is this new version merely about exterior styling?
We actually changed everything: body, suspension, chassis, engine, transmission. Everything is new.

What about the price? Will it be close to that of the outgoing model?
I don\'t think so; it might be higher.

We have seen the proliferation of cheap and small Korean--and even Chinese--cars. Are they beginning to be a threat to both the City and the Jazz?
No. Our product performance is different from them, not only in terms of engine horsepower or fuel mileage, but also in terms of durability and reliability.

What are Honda\'s short-term as well as long-term plans in order to survive the economic crisis?
It\'s very simple: We\'ll continue to provide the best customer service.

With the current crisis, do you think it still makes sense for Honda to compete in Formula One?
That\'s a very tough question. Frankly speaking, I am not in a position to make a decision. But as a Honda associate, I think we should continue to participate to brush up on our technology.

How did you join Honda?
When I was a college student, I was a rally driver. So naturally, when I had to think about my job opportunities, the automotive companies were first on my list. And among the automotive companies, only Honda was making motorcycles and other products. So I got interested in the Honda Motor Company.

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What do you personally drive in Japan, and what is your dream car?
Now that I live here, I have no car in Japan. But when I lived in Japan, I drove a Honda Prelude with a 2.2-liter DOHC VTEC engine. I loved it. My dream car now is Honda\'s hybrid sports car.

Will you sell hybrid cars in the Philippines in the near future, then?
If there is an ideal tax condition, we can launch. We are currently producing hybrid cars in Japan only, and if we import from Japan, we have to pay a 30-percent import duty. So the product becomes very expensive. Even with good fuel mileage, there is no benefit for the customer.

What are your expectations when the Honda City goes on sale?
Nowadays, the passenger car market is in a not-so-good condition. But in the B segment (the 1.3-liter-to-1.5-liter segment), we can still expect market expansion. So I\'d like to offer new value and new standards in the segment with our new City.

Can you divulge to us what model will be introduced after the City?
Ha ha! That is a secret. I cannot disclose it today.

Want to learn more about the Honda City? Click here.

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