2005 Chicago Auto Show - Civic Si Concept debut Remarks for John Mendel

2/10/2005 4:01:13 PM

Good morning and thank you for joining us here today. My name is John Mendel and I'm the new guy. This is my first time to stand in front of you representing Honda and I'm excited to be here and to share with you some very exciting news about the future of Honda.

Let me start by talking a little about our overall sales and product picture. Last year, Honda posted its ninth consecutive year of record sales and launched two new models - an all-new Odyssey minivan and the Accord Hybrid. I'm pleased to report that both models are off to a great start.

Sales of the new Odyssey are up 20 percent since October, and our customers are telling us how much they love the new features, styling and luxury-sedan like performance of the new Odyssey.

The Accord hybrid, our third hybrid model is selling as fast as we can make them. Sales of our hybrids were up 18 percent last year and we expect to nearly double those results in 2005.

Speaking of 2005, we expect to be every bit as competitive as 2004. We're looking forward to the continued success of our new car and truck models to deliver another record year for Honda, with sales around 1.25 million units.

Two models that will play a critical role in delivering these results for 2005 are the all-new Ridgeline truck and a completely new Civic. I hope that some of you saw the debut of our Ridgeline advertising at the Superbowl on Sunday. For those of you who missed it, here's an ad called "Buckles" that speaks to the unique capabilities and innovation of Honda's new truck.

The Ridgeline goes on sale March 1 and judging by the reaction from our dealers and customers, we're confident we can hit our target of 50,000 units in the first 12 months of sales.

And while we continue to grow our truck sales, we remain committed to leadership on the car side of the business. To that end, we're looking forward to the launch of an all-new, completely re-engineered Civic lineup beginning with the introduction of a new 4-door sedan and 2-coupe this fall. You know... since its introduction in 1973, the Civic has exemplified the core attributes of all Honda products: great value, great ergonomics, fun-to-drive character and of course world-class durability, quality and reliability.

Civic has also led the way on environmental innovation including the first car to meet California's Low Emissions and Ultra-Low Emissions standards. And the first truly mainstream gas-electric hybrid vehicle, the Civic Hybrid. The Civic has also led the industry in safety. The current model Coupe is the first and only compact class car to earn a five star/five-star rating in both frontal and side impact testing.

Importantly, the Civic has always struck a balance between the needs of the customer and the needs of society. And it's done so while appealing to a wide variety of customers, from mainstream buyers attracted to its thoughtful design, terrific value and long-term reliability; to young, performance-oriented enthusiasts who appreciate Honda's world-class engine technology and the racing spirit that is present in virtually every product we build. It's the reason more than 6.6 million buyers have chosen Civic, now in its ninth year as America's best-selling compact-class car.

The 2006 Civic builds on this tradition with new technology and a new platform that delivers enhancements in virtually every area of its performance. Both the Sedan and Coupe will feature the latest generation of our intelligent VTEC technology that improves performance while setting a new standard for fuel efficiency and low emissions in the compact class.

Futhermore, a new Civic Hybrid will apply this same i-VTEC technology in combination with our IMA hybrid system to deliver even higher levels of performance and efficiency. And in keeping with our commitment to Safety for Everyone, this new Civic will apply a core suite of advanced safety features as standard equipment on all models. This includes anti-lock brakes, advanced front, side and side curtain airbags and our ACE body structure.

Simply put, the Civic will be the safest car in its class, bar none. Of course, the Civic has also played an important role in communicating the racing spirit of Honda. And this new Civic is no exception.

Later in the year, we'll launch an all-new Civic Si Coupe. The Si has long served as the performance halo for the whole Civic lineup and as the object of desire for thousands of performance-minded Civic enthusiasts. This new Si is no exception. This hot new Honda is being developed by our colleagues at R&D Americas right down the road in Raymond, Ohio. And it promises to be the fastest, most powerful and most fun-to-drive Civic we've ever put on the street.

So today we thought it might be fun to give you a bit of a preview of what this new high performance Civic is all about. So, let's take a look at the Civic Si Concept.

Here it is. The future of Civic, and Civic performance. Although this is just a concept vehicle, it gives a very strong indication of where we're headed with the new Coupe and Coupe Si in terms of styling and the overall package. It's 90 percent of what you'll see when the production models debut later this year. It's an advanced new look that speaks to the more emotional, aggressive and fun-to-drive nature of the new Civic.

Of course, the Si is about more than just the styling. That's why this concept boasts a 200-horsepower 16-valve DOHC i-VTEC engine, the most powerful motor we've ever put in a U.S. model Civic. Of course it is a little too early for you to test drive this car, but we thought we would give you a taste of what it would sound like .....Not the kind of engine note that you expect to hear from a 4 cylinder Civic... huh?

Helping to put that power to the ground is a crisp close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission along with a limited slip differential for improved launch traction and cornering performance. The Si Concept also boasts 18-inch, high performance rubber and four-wheel disc brakes with four-piston Brembo calipers. 2006 will mark the 20th anniversary of the Si in America. And the 2006 Si Coupe will remain true to the legacy of the Si, delivering a new level of performance to the Civic lineup.

Although it's too early to get into all the details, I can tell you one thing for sure. This new Si will be fast, fun and full of what makes Civic, a Civic.

Now, as you all know, the performance aftermarket has played a big part in the image of Civic with young buyers and performance enthusiasts. After all, it was Civic that was there at the birth of the compact performance trend some twenty years ago, and Civic that still holds the largest share of this market today. So, as part of our marketing efforts for this new Civic lineup and for the Si in particular, we look forward to taking a big role in the event that serves as the epicenter of the tuner market, the annual SEMA show in Las Vegas.

I am pleased to announce for the first time here today that Honda will be participating in the 2005 SEMA show as Vehicle Manufacturer of the Show, a first for any Japanese manufacturer ... and the Civic is taking center stage as the Official Vehicle of the Show. As part of this effort, we'll make SEMA the venue for the world debut of the new Si in November. It's the perfect place to showcase this new Si and to tell the world of performance tuners and aftermarket sellers how excited we are about this new Civic.

We look forward to sharing more details of the Civic Si and the total Civic lineup with you in the months to come. Thank you for your attention this morning. Please come on up and take a close look at the Civic Si Concept. And after that I invite you to join us at the SEMA press conference immediately following.