February 14, 2015 / 3:01 PM / 5 years ago

Honda aims to cut car model variations by a fifth to focus on quality

ASAHIKAWA, Japan, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Honda Motor Co is looking to reduce the number of variations on its cars by a fifth to focus more on quality, its R&D chief said, as Japan’s third-biggest automaker tries to emerge from a year of product recalls and quality problems.

Honda rolled out virtually no new models last year to spend more time on development. This followed issues with its latest Fit hybrid subcompact, which had to be recalled five times less than a year after its launch.

One reason behind the multiple recalls could be the amount of work in the R&D division, Honda’s top engineer, Yoshiharu Yamamoto, told journalists during a test-drive event in northern Japan on Saturday.

“My sense is that we need to slash the number of cars we develop by about 20 percent,” he said, referring to the various versions developed for a single car model to meet specific needs in different markets around the world, as well as minor facelifts during the life of a car.

“In the end, with so many different specs you lose the essence of what a Honda car should be. It also puts a big burden on (engineers) and it’s inefficient,” he said.

Yamamoto said the reduction efforts were already underway, although he declined to say when they started or when he expected the work to be complete.

Domestic rival Toyota Motor Corp made a similar move after its safety issues in 2010, slowing development to put more quality checks in place.

In addition to its own quality hiccups, Honda has been hit hard by a multi-million-vehicle recall across a dozen automakers to replace potentially faulty air bags made by Takata Corp . (Reporting by Maki Shiraki, Writing by Chang-Ran Kim. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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