Interview with Honda Motor Co.’s Corporate Brand Officer

Tetsuo Iwamura, Corporate Brand Officer, Honda Motor Co., Ltd. "The Power of Dreams" is recognized as being at the core of the Honda brand. How do you bring this idea to life, and what kinds of brand experiences do you to offer?

“The Power of Dreams” is Honda’s global brand slogan. It speaks to our desire to dream and to realize those dreams around the world. Behind this slogan, is what we call the Honda Philosophy. It comprises our fundamental beliefs, our company principles, and our management policies. The fundamental beliefs include two concepts: respect for the individual, and “the three joys”-the joy of buying, the joy of selling, and the joy of creation.

Because Honda covers a wide range of business areas, we have a flexible approach with operations in each country that are autonomously responsible for the creation of our brand. That being said, in the broadest terms we are “HONDA,” a single corporate brand, so, regardless of whether our customers are looking at a four-wheeled vehicle, or a two-wheeled, or power products, we want to create something that meets their needs. We want Honda to be an extraordinary brand, earnestly pursuing a dream-that goes beyond conventional thinking.

A recent example is the “HondaJet,” which has turned conventional aviation on its head. If Honda is going to make a business jet, it must be more spacious, more comfortable, more compact and lighter than any in existence. We started by reviewing conventional thinking about aviation design and then used our own independently developed technology to achieve our goals-like mounting the engines above the main wing for example, which until now had never been done. Conventional thinking had previously dictated that placing the engine above the wing increases wind resistance, and in particular reduces aerodynamic capabilities when flying at high speeds. Through our own extensive research, we identified a sweet spot that not only allows the engines to be placed above the main wing, but also provides aerodynamic advantages by doing so. The result: improved top speed and fuel efficiency, placing it best in its class, while offering exceptional in-cabin roominess.

Another example is Enepo, from our Power Products department. This is a generator for home use that runs on butane gas. After the East Japan earthquake, many companies looked into providing food, a means of communication, and aid. But the most important thing in a disaster is a source of power. Enepo does more than provide light during a blackout; it enables you to use your computer or charge your cell phone. If you have an electronic kettle, you can boil water. A single Enepo costs \110,000. It costs just one million yen to outfit a 10-story building with one unit per floor. We want to communicate about products like the Enepo to further express the way of life at Honda and our intentions as a corporation: The first thing we think about is the happiness of our customers.

What are you doing to give the Honda Group a competitive edge in the global market?

We got an early start in globalization with the export of the Honda Cub F to Taiwan in 1952 and the overseas production of mopeds in Belgium in 1963. The basis of our global strategy has always been the localization of people, products, and profits. The money made overseas is not just sent back to Japan, but re-invested in expanding our operations in that region, increasing employment there, and further benefiting our customers. We have successfully managed localization ahead of other companies. We now have a production capacity of 1.93 million four-wheeled vehicles in North America. One result of our localization is the current development and production in the U.S. of the next-generation supercar, the NSX, featuring a completely new hybrid system. This is a supercar developed and produced by our American associates, and we are going to sell it to the world. This is how we at Honda are paying back the U.S. for everything they have given us, and giving back to society in the truest sense of the term.

Regarding globalization, what are you focused on at Honda?

In principle, our focus is the Honda Philosophy. Wherever we go, we are always going to be starting behind the local companies, so it is vital to have both a unifying force and an identity. In order to obtain the understanding that will function as the unifying force in each region, it’s been important to show one key thing, “this is us.” That’s the Honda Philosophy.

One of the fundamental tenets of that philosophy is respect for the individual, which includes the three elements of initiative, equality, and trust. It’s what we now call diversity.

The same can be said of “the three joys.” Everyone, regardless of race or nationality, is happy when they make a good purchase. Seeing the happy face of the customer makes those who sold, developed, created, and assembled the product happy as well. This concept is easy to understand globally and forms the basis for the fundamental beliefs of Honda.

Amid the current technological revolution in the automotive industry, how is Honda pioneering the future of driving?

What matters isn’t so much driving, but what the customer gets out of it. This is why, when we put out the first NSX, we made it the first automatic model in its class. Unlike other supercars, you always felt safe behind the wheel of the NSX. We created a supercar that enabled anyone to experience the joy of driving. Which brings us to the next-generation NSX. The left and right side tires are now controlled by a motor, which enables the ideal torque to be maintained even on curves, and creates excellent stability even at high speeds.

How is Honda working to meet the global demand for sustainability?

A good example is our four-wheeled vehicle plant in Yorii, Saitama. By introducing a solar power generation setup with a total power of 2.6MW, we reduced our annual CO2 emissions by approximately 1,200 tons. Our development of EVs (electric vehicles) and FCVs (fuel cell vehicles) is also accelerating. We developed the MC-?, a super compact EV for short distance journeys, and testing has begun in Kumamoto Prefecture, Saitama City, and Miyakojima City. We believe that fuel cell vehicles are critical. The reason that hydrogen is known as the ultimate, from an efficiency standpoint, is because it has a higher energy storage rate than the EV’s battery. Fuel cell vehicles are exactly what we mean by “The Power of Dreams,” and is exactly what I think Honda should be working to realize. In the area of fuel cells, Honda has formed an alliance with GM. Both Honda and GM have spent a long time on the research and development of fuel cells. We are working toward the development of a fuel cell system by 2020. By working together, I think we’ll be able to make a significant impact.