Honda’s latest advertising campaign for the fuel efficient new CR-V 1.6 diesel is clever, engaging and has thus far generated more than 3.2 million views on YouTube since it was released just over a fortnight ago.
The ad is designed to tackle our preconceptions about thirsty SUVs, showing by way of metaphor how the new CR-V diesel is a surprisingly fuel efficient SUV with CO₂ emissions of only 119g/km.
But the car maker needs to go further if it’s to reignite the sporting sentiment behind its name – performance is in Honda’s DNA, and like other top car makers it understands the need to combine this with class-leading efficiency.
Some might questions why they need to, after all Honda’s brand value** grew by 7% in 2013 to become the 4th largest in the sector behind Toyota, Mercedes-Benz and BMW.
But sports cars aren’t just about speed, they’re about passion, self-expression and purity of purpose. If a brand wishes to convey how innovative their engineers can be, then it does so through motorsport and by producing cars which ignite the emotions of car enthusiasts.
Emotional response leads to social sharing, which generates more organic search activity that benefits every other model in the range. Put simply, Honda would be even more successful if more people were talking about its achievements – that’s why it’s re-entering Formula One in 2015 and getting the NSX supercar and the next-generation Civic Type R ready at the same time.
But it’s models like the Civic and smaller CR-Z that really matter. Yes, people talk about supercars, but they talk even more about the cars they own and the models they aspire to own.
That’s why this month’s Tokyo Motor Show is so interesting.
Honda will be going back to their roots with the new S660 Concept, an open-top baby twin-seat sports car powered by an equally small compact turbocharged engine.
It will be joined on the stand by the ‘Sports 360’, Honda’s first ever road car which sired their first sports car – the S500 – before leading to mass production as the S600 and S800.
Also on the stand will be the latest version of NSX Concept, while over in the U.S. the company this week launched the Honda Performance Development (HPD) CR-Z – a series of three tuning packages for the company’s sporty hybrid coupé including a 184bhp supercharged boost to the standard car’s 1.5-litre 4-cylinder engine.
Of course neither HPD CR-Z or S660 Concept will set the world alight, and neither will likely make it here to the UK (unless as a grey import), but the next-generation Civic Type R certainly will and with it Honda promises a new front-wheel drive Nürburgring-Nordschleife lap record.
It will arrive in early 2015, building on the pedigree of a successful 2013 World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) which sees driver Gabriele Tarquini holding on to second in the driver’s standing with just the final race at Macau to go.
The team’s other works drivers, Tiago Monteiro, took a convincing lights-to-flag victory in the second race at last weekend’s Shanghai round, giving Honda an unassailable lead in the 2013 manufacturers standings.
Both Tarquini and Monteiro have been confirmed for the 2014 season, which introduces new regulations featuring cars with around 380bhp (up nearly 100bhp on 2013.)
So, the spark is there, as Honda’s designers and engineers prepare to show off their skills. But as the Rolling Stones song said “time waits for no one”, and the clock is ticking.
**Interbrand Best Global Brands 2013 report.