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Honda Cars PH’s first 30 years chronicled in commemorative book

            Honda Cars Philippines, Inc. (HCPI) is celebrating its 30th year of business operations in the country by launching a commemorative book and holding its first virtual car launch later this month to introduce two new models to its lineup.

            HCPI preceded these events with an online gathering last week with its media friends and partners which served as the company’s thanksgiving for the support given by its partners and at the same time to officially introduce the new HCPI president, Mr. Masahiko Nakamura who assumed office last April.

            Aside from Mr. Nakamura, HCPI Executive Vice President Mr. Ryohei Adach, HCPI Assistant Vice President Mr. Koki Hattori and HCPI General Manager for Sales Atty. Louie Soriano participated in the Zoom meeting.

            During the online gathering, HCPI showed a short video “Honda at 30: the Dream Lives On” detailing the milestones and achievements of its presence in the country. Since it entered the Philippine automotive industry in 1990, HCPI has become one of the top industry players and has consistently retained its ranking as one of the top 10 best-selling brands.

            Atty. Soriano revealed that HCPI’s record-breaking year was in 2015, when 31,000 Honda vehicles were sold. At present, HCPI’s best-selling models are the City and the Brio.

HCPI’s CSR

            In 2007, HCPI inaugurated the Honda Safety Driving Center in Taguig, Metro Manila to promote road safety through responsible motoring and education. It is the country’s only world-class facility that offers basic and comprehensive driver training for two-wheel and four-wheel motor vehicles, and even heavy duty trucks and vans.

            The Honda Safety Driving Center was the venue for the launching of the One Honda Road Safety Program in April 2017, a 4-year “Road Safety for Our Family” campaign.  The event was graced by LTO Assistant Secretary Edgar Galvante, CAMPI president Rommel Gutierrez, Isuzu PH Corp. sales division head Joseph Bautista, HCPI president Toshio Kuwahara and other HCPI high-ranking executives.

            More recently, HCPI loaned 33 vehicles to hospitals in Laguna and Cavite to help medical front-liners combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

HCPI’S HISTORY

            The events shown in the HCPI video reminded me how HCPI’s history has been intertwined with my life as a motorist and as a motoring journalist.

            When HCPI’s first assembly plant was inaugurated in Santa Rosa, Laguna in 1990, its first production model was the 5th generation Honda Civic 2-door hatchback.  My third company car when I was working at Ayala Corporation in Makati was a 1991 blue Civic hatchback with manual transmission. Although the hatchback was sporty-looking, it was somewhat underpowered. But it was quite nimble and fun to drive.

            In 1994, HCPI launched the 5th generation Accord.  Is it any wonder that when I retired from Ayala in 1999, my company car was a 1994 2.2-liter VTEC 4-cylinder Accord EX sedan with manual transmission and leather seats? I have good memories of that Accord as an extremely comfortable, smooth-shifting, reliable family car.  

            When Honda Motor Company launched the 6th generation Civic sedan at the 1995 Tokyo Motor Show, I was one of the motoring journalists invited by HCPI to witness the event. In fact, HCPI has resurrected a photo of me and three other journos posing with the ’95 Civic sedan in Tokyo.  After it was launched in Manila, the 6th gen Civic became one of the most popular compact sedans in the country.

            The Civic Type R debuted at the 44th Tokyo Motor Show in 2015, which I attended.  The Type R has a short-throw aluminum 6-speed manual transmission, 306 bhp/400 Nm max torque, top speed of 270 kph, 19-inch alloy wheels, four-piston Brembo front calipers on 13.8-inch drilled rotors, and hits 100 kph from standstill in 5.7 seconds.

            The budget-priced Honda City subcompact sedan, which was officially launched in 1998, was produced in Thailand for export to the Philippines and other ASEAN market but was eventually assembled CKD at the HCPI plant in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. HCPI invited me and other motoring journalists to Thailand to test-drive the City before it was launched in Manila.  As soon as we landed at Bangkok airport, we were brought to another town several motoring hours away to test-drive the City the next day.

            HCPI promoted the first generation City by using it initially in the Honda Media Challenge, a club circuit race sanctioned by the Automobile Association Philippines which was held from 1998 to 2008. In the later years, HCPI used competition-equipped Honda VTEC Jazz units and changed the format from circuit to a combination of autocross and gymkhana motor sport disciplines.  I competed a few times in the Honda Media Challenge when the City was in use and gained not a trophy, but a nice motor sport racing outfit.

            In January 2009, HCPI rolled out a more stylish 3rd generation City and in 2012, a bigger City.  The 2014 City with a chunky new grille was “Proudly Pinoy” since it was assembled at HBPI’s Sta. Rosa plant. To this day, the City is  one of HCPI’s top-selling models. 

            The second generation Honda CR-V (Comfortable Runabout Vehicle) came to the Philippines in 2002 with i-VTEC engineering.  The first time I saw it was in Japan at the 35th Tokyo Motor Show in 2001. I remember then that at first glance, the other Filipino motoring journalists and I immediately liked it and told our HCPI hosts that it should be brought to Manila.

            Upon its intro by HCPI in Manila in 2002, the CR-V became a big success. Every model change thereafter was a best-seller.  The CR-V has grown over the years and its success has generated smaller Honda crossover models like the HR-V and BR-V.

            HCPI introduced more new models after the CR-V: the Jazz (called Fit in Japan) in 2008, the Brio in 2014, the Odyssey in 2015, the Civic Type R in 2017, and the BR-V in 2019.

TEST-DRIVES OF HONDA VEHICLES

            All these kept me busy test-driving as reported in the following PDI Motoring articles:

CIVIC

2012 Civic: More econ, less emotion – The 9th generation Civic: more of the same, but still delivers good value ( Apr. 25, 2012)

Honda Civic Mugen and Modulo: a comparo ( Aug. 06, 2014)

Favorite nameplates: A comparo of the 2016 Honda Civic 1.8E and 2016 Mitsubishi Lancer EX GT-A ( Aug. 17, 2016)

Honda Civic Back in Limelight: What a difference “RS” makes for Honda’s turbocharged Civic (March 08, 2017)

CITY

Confirming the City’s graduation (Feb. 22, 2012)

We built this City: First drive of the 2014 Honda City (Apr. 12, 2014)

CR-V

Fundamentally satisfying to drive: The 4th evolution of the Honda CR-V (Comfortable Run-about Vehicle) is out to impress (June 06, 2012)

The 2018 CR-V SX: Honda’s 1st diesel vehicle (Dec. 13, 2017)

ACCORD

Growth in value: The 2011 Honda Accord (Aug. 31, 2011)

2014 Honda Accord: The power of earth dreams (Mar. 19, 2014)

A Class Above 2020 Honda Accord (Sep 25, 2019)

2020 Honda Accord All-Around value for money (Dec 18, 2019)

ODYSSEY

Honda’s big ‘twins” have so much to offer (Aug. 29, 2012)

2015 Honda Odyssey: svelte, smart and safe (May 2015)

PILOT

Pilot comfort 2016 Honda Pilot integrates Acura MDX DNA (June 08, 2016)

MOBILIO

2015 Honda Mobilio: Road-sailing class-above spaciousness and seats (July 25, 2015)

HR-V

Comparo: 2015 Honda HR-V and Peugeot 2008 (Sep 02, 2015)

BR-V

Test-driving three new Honda cars at Twin Ring Motegi – Nov. 11. 2015

When seven is heaven – 7-seater Honda BR-V introduces a whole new dynamic to the small SUV segment (Jun 21, 2017)

BRIO

Honda Brio and Suzuki Swift: A Comparo (Jan. 28, 2015)

2019 Honda Brio: Small in Size, Big in sales (Jul 10, 2019)

CR-Z

Honda’s hybrid wannabe sports car (Mar 13, 2013)

The Honda CR-Z the second time around (Sep 25, 2013)

2016 Honda CR-Z: the fun hybrid (Feb 27, 2016)

THE POWER OF DREAMS AT THE 44TH TOKYO MOTOR SHOW

            I have been invited to the Tokyo Motor Show so many times that I can’t remember which car company was the host in what year, but I will never forget the 44th TMS in 2015 when HCPI was the host.  It was the last time I attended a TMS.

            Honda Motor Co., Japan’s third largest automaker in sales volume, transcended the “Go beyond imagination” theme of its “The Power of Dreams” booth, the largest area for a single brand at Tokyo Big Sight.

            Honda displayed a wide variety of four-wheel and two-wheel mobility products capable of advanced motor sport performance, the ultimate in emission-free motoring and vehicles useful to people’s daily lives.

            The stars of the show were the NSX hybrid super sports car, 2016 Civic Type R, and the Clarity, the world’s first production model of a fuel cell-powered four-door sedan.

            On the fifth day of our nine-day journey to Japan for the 44th TMS, we were treated to test-drive sessions with three new Honda cars at Twin Ring Motegi, which is in eastern Tochigi prefecture about three hours’ drive by coach from Tokyo.  It is the site of major motor sport events such as the Moto GP and the Honda Collection Hall which exhibits about 300 Honda two-wheel and four-wheel motor vehicles.

            It was there that we got to drive the BR-V prototype the production model of which was eventually launched by HCPI in Manila in 2019.  The other prototypes we test-drove were the Honda S660 mini open-top sports coupe and the Jade RS compact multipurpose vehicle, neither of which was brought to the Philippines.

COMMEMORATIVE BOOK

            The HCPI 30th anniversary commemorative book, which celebrates and honors the many achievements and milestones pf the company over the past 30 years, will be distributed to media friends and partners in early November.  The book promises to be a collector’s item since it will not be offered for sale in bookstores.

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