Last week I read yet another public complaint by Honda Canada VP Jim Miller about the federal efficiency "feebate" program. They were angry that the Fit missed the (arbitrary) threshold for the rebate by 0.1 L/100 km, whereas the Yaris snuck in.
Once again he attempted the smokescreen that Honda didn't want to have to sacrifice safety for fuel economy (the Yaris has fewer airbags and a lower crash rating) and announced they were going to offer a corporate rebate to Fit buyers (and manual Civic buyers), in the amount the federal gov't was awarding to Yaris & Corolla buyers.
I'm not usually the letter writing type.
But I was so p.o.'d that Honda's chosen response to this situation was a PR campaign, and not simple changes to improve their vehicles' efficiency, that I actually wrote, printed out and mailed a letter to them. (They don't have corporate e-mail anywhere on their web site. Don't want their customers contacting them too easily? )
This was a week ago Friday. On Friday, 5 business days later, I had a reply in my mailbox. Hmmm!
Here's some of what Honda Canada's VP wrote [my comments in brackets]:
Thank you for your letter [...]. Based upon the length of time it took us to respond you can tell that over and above meetings with the Government, we also were concerned about the potential of a public backlash to our actions. [This first point addresses the fact that only 5 business days elapsed from the day I sent my letter to the day I received a reply.]
We most likely would not have responded [to the Gov't, I assume] if there had been consultation with the Government and a reasonable time frame to reacte; there was not. This is also not just about safety but about Honda's reputation as a company that tries to be environmentally responsible.
We have investigated what can be done from a technical point of view to comply with the Government's arbitrary number on a go forward basis. Action will be taken for the 2008 model year even though we still have no clarity from the Government that the number [the rebate threshold] will remain the same. We agree a taller final drive does seem obvious but it is no longer that simple with all of the other tests a vehicle must pass to meet different emission criteria regulations.
To your point [in my letter, I closed by saying that this seemed more like a response one would expect from the former-big-three, not from Honda], this is not typical of Honda but this one time, after much deliberation, we felt we had to act.
You made a very valid point and what would seem easy to us. Buttttttttt, to change a final drive all emissions test will have to be run over to see what changes it could make. With several different cats. 4k 20k 100k aged convertors. Will it actually give the numbers wanted? Not to mention you have to supply all of the replacement parts for dealers. Which requires ramp up time. What about the supplier of the trans. is that ratio even available? Or will it have to be made and then tested for durability? Implementation could take years. (No magic wand here) The logistics can be tremendous, regs can have a negative effect on fast implementation. Lastly will the buyer put up with the loss of performance as you and I have?
You mean fuel economy numbers? It would be easy to get 0.1 L/100 km better FE with a mild gearing change. They could probably do it just by changing the wheel/tire size and recalibrating the speedometer! I'd like to see them go further, though.
Lastly will the buyer put up with the loss of performance as you and I have?
For $1000, I think so, yes. We're not talking a 25% RPM drop like I did to my car.
Sales of the Yaris went up by 15% after the feebate program came into effect. Fit sales only dropped by 1%, but sales of all other entry level hatchback cars fell except for one new model by Kia.
Don't get be wrong I'm not siding on Honda's side. All changes have consequences for production. There hoping for help pure and simple! Knowing Hondas track record they will get it together. All I'd like people to realize is you have to take the industries challenges into account. Even a tire change is not as simple as it sounds.
Not saying you are doing this, but there seems to be bashing for bashing sake. Not many facts to back it up. Yes it would be the quick way and probably the fastest to implement a tire change. Still it takes time and they are trying to save face.
As usual you do your homework well! Bear with me as lack of education to your tax breaks, is showing! LOL
Haha, what losers! They really wanted the standard to be dumbed down. 6.5 is WAY too generous. To make a difference, it should have been under 5....or maybe cars that achieve under 5 should have been offered a larger rebate.
The real problem is that they don't offer their most economical engines in North America. Just the boy racer engines.
minic6: I don't doubt it's more complicated to make changes than I would expect.
Do I think ALL Fit owners would accept a drop in performance? No - I think the best way to answer that question would be to make this an option, not standard equipment. And yes, I also realize that complicates production (and sales) further.
Still, as Mike T points out, Honda chose boy racer over efficiency. You only have to browse one of several Honda forums to find some of their own customers who aren't happy with the Fit's fuel economy or gearing. The general concensus among that group seems to be "Honda erred too much on the side of 'sporty' vs. efficient."
Mike: I would totally support a more graduated feebate structure. Currently there are only 2 levels on the rebate side: $1k or $2k back.
Honda would have loved a $500 level, I'm sure. But I'd also like to see a $1500 level which is just out of reach of the current Corolla/Yaris, to give that company an excuse to try harder, as Honda is preparing to do.
I think just changing the gear ratios will have a big effect on the mileage of the Fit, even if they keep the ICE the same. When I went from my stock CX motor (70hp, 91ft-lbs, 8 valves) to the DX motor (102hp, 96ft-lbs, 16 valves), but kept the same CX transmission, my mileage didn't change at all, provided I didn't use the higher rpm range of the motor very often. So going to a more powerful 4 valves per cylinder motor had no negative effect on mileage since I didn't change the transmission. But now I have the option of a much faster acceleration when I need it (which I rarely do), but no mileage penalty from just having the higher HP motor
One thing I can't help but wonder is whether Honda Canada will use this opportunity to also try to best the FE of the Yaris, or whether they will simply do the bare minimum needed to get past the rebate threshold as a way of thumbing their noses at the government.
And whether the FE improvement will be to all North American Fits, or just the CDN ones.
Renault had a really neat version of this longer gearing back in 1978-79 with the 69 HP Renault 5 (Le Car) that we got in Canada.
The engines were all the same, Euro-spec high cmpression 1289 cc wedge heads with some pretty decent pep for their day. What they offered as an option was a different final drive ratio for the car's four speed transaxle.
The GTL had a 3.63:1 ratio and the TL had a 3.10 ratio.
The cars were virtually as quick as each other in acceleration, but the TL had way better fuel economy on the highway due to the significant drop in RPM. You could also wind them up to over 85 MPH in third gear. Top end on one of these cars was an honest 100 MPH. The TL could get to over 190 km/h (120 MPH) on a steep downhill! The GTL hit top whack at redline in 4th, around 160 km/h.
In Europe, the TL had the same transaxle but its engine was a detuned 1300 with a single barrel carb and 42 HP. So the fact that the Canadian version had about 25 more HP and a two barrel was kind of neat and gave the economy-minded a choice in Canada even though the car had the boy racer engine This was around the time of the second "oil crisis".
US Renault Le Cars all had low compression mega-desmogged engines with short gearing, so they never got to have the fun that we did.
My Dad drove his 1979 GTL to California with four aboard (and luggage) and he said that it was eating all the other cars alive on the hills on I-5. US cars were dog-slow in the early desmogged era....
It seems like honda could have made it more efficient if they had wanted to from the start. They have made quite a few super efficient cars, and it would have been easy to implement a few of these innovations into the current car for a small sum. Changing the car will probably be more difficult, but it seems a small gearing change or (easier) a plastic aero panel or tire change could be done.