Honda Appoints New Head of American R&D To Shake Things Up

There was a time when Honda was the automotive industry’s darling. Their cars showed a focus on engineering, and were generally stylish and well-developed vehicles that led their respective classes. As far as enthusiasts go, cars like the Acura NSX and Honda S2000 added a shine and luster to the brand. Today, Honda doesn’t have any true sports cars. CR-Z? Joke. Civic Si? Sorry, it isn’t going to cut it.

They can’t even give us the Type R model. Honda has recognized this problem, and is trying to put some steps in place to fix it. It is similar to the way Toyota has gone about things. In North America, Honda has appointed its first American head of Research & Development, Erik Berkman.

According to Automotive News the appointment came from Honda President Takanobu Ito, who worked with Berkman in the 1990s.

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Berkman has been responsible for some successful products, such as the 2004 Acura TL. That generation of the TL is generally regarded as the best of the breed, and the market responded accordingly. It sold 77,000 units on year, the best figure posted so far and the highest in its segment. He had to fight for the car to be produced though.

Honda is known for its tight control of costs – it has never lost money, even through the worst parts of the global economic recession. Impressive, no doubt. You can tell where the cost came from though by looking at its current products. Berkman says that the next Civic boasts much-improved interior quality and that the Accord will be the best iteration yet.

“You’re going to find that Accord is a very well-balanced product that is the best overall product in everything, whether we’re talking about interior packaging, content of the vehicle, the fuel economy of the vehicle,” he said. It “will be one of the most feature-rich vehicles we’ve ever made.” That’s good, because it needs to be. “Having high expectations or pressure is what’s necessary to get us to a point where we’re performing,” he said.

“We want everybody to fall over and go: There it is again. There’s that Honda we used to praise.” He hit the nail on the head there. It’s good to see someone having such a good sense of what needs to be done. Hopefully the company gets to the point where we’re all saying that once again.