Honda Hints at New Pickup
By: Michael LevinePosted: 01-09-02 12:00

Rumors continued to swirl ever more furiously in Detroit about a new mid or full-size pickup truck coming from Honda. It is expected to bow next January at the 2002 North American International Auto Show.

PUTC had the opportunity to speak with Honda's Dan Bonawitz, VP of Automobile Corporate Planning and Logistics, to see what might be revealed about a potential pickup.

Bonawitz's statements are right in line with the growing truck lineup at Honda. He stated that Honda is very aware of the growing percentage of trucks in the marketplace, which were over 50% of all automobiles sold in 2001. Honda is striving to address this market by adding new trucks to their own lineup that had not been part of the Honda family before.

In 1995 Honda sold less than 5,000 trucks in the US. By the end of 2002, Bonawitz says that Honda expects to sell over 300,000 units.

The first truck to sell significant numbers in Honda's inventory was the Honda CR-V, a compact sport utility vehicle competing against Toyota's RAV4 and Ford's Escape. The CR-V is redesigned for 2002. Next came the extremely popular and critically well-received Honda Odyssey minivan. From the Odyssey chassis was spawned Acura's MDX, Honda's luxury division's own mid-size SUV, and the brand new 2003 Honda Pilot midsize SUV, first shown at this year's Show.

Asked about pickup trucks, Bonawitz told us that Honda realizes full size pickup trucks sell in significant number and that the pickup truck market overall is quickly evolving with the introduction of brand new crew cabs and other features not found previously in these trucks.

Bonawitz's comments also shed some light on possible innovations in the pickup truck marketplace that Honda might bring to the party.

Current pickups are all built using body-on-frame construction while Honda uses nontraditional unibody production methods in its SUV and minivan truck lines. The advantages of a unibody design are lighter-weight and lower manufacturing costs though it does have some weakness when it comes to off-road use. Honda's current SUVs aren't meant for heavy 4x4 trips but are positioned to appeal to families looking for a capable people hauler with the looks of a truck.

We also asked Bonawitz about the engine swapping agreement between General Motors and Honda. The alliance only covers whole engine swaps and not engine technology transfers. Honda VTEC engines may wind up in certain GM cars while Isuzu Motors would supply Honda with certain members of its diesel engine family. GM owns a large percentage of Isuzu stock. No Vortec engines would be provided, specifically the 5.3-liter Vortec 5300, as has been rumored for a Honda pickup.

While Bonawitz and Honda won't confirm or deny that a pickup truck is being developed, his comments do help flesh out our ideas on what the truck might be.

PUTC is expecting a midsize, unibody pickup truck to debut in Detroit at the 2003 North American International Auto Show sporting all-wheel drive and a Honda V6.

Bonawitz did add one final comment. "Stay tuned."