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Auto blogWed, 26 Feb 2014 10:00:00 EST
Honda and Acura North America have announced a major restructuring of operations in hopes of turning around Acura's flagging business. For 2013, sales for Acura's sedans dropped 10.4 percent, while its CUV sales grew by 21 percent. The newly formed Acura Business Planning Office will attempt to right the ship.
As part of the restructuring, Acura is promoting Erik Berkman from President of Honda R&D Americas to lead a new division called the Acura Business Planning Office. Berkman has been with Honda since 1982 and led development of the 2006 Accord. He was also the first US engineer to head North American research and development and has been head of Honda Performance Development since 2008. "Erik's appointment to the new Acura Business Planning Office is a clear indication of the high priority we place on Acura," said Honda spokesperson Jeffrey Smith to Automotive News.
American Honda Motor President and CEO Tetsuo Iwamura is also going to be working to improve the business. He has been elected chairman of American Honda's board, and has simultaneously taken the new position of Corporate Brand Officer to improve the management of the company's brands.
Toyota is on track for record profits, and in return, its Japanese workers are receiving their first increase in base wages since 2008, plus higher pay based on seniority and a larger bonus for 2014. The Japanese automaker predicts the average laborer will net a 2.9 percent income gain.
The average Toyota employee will earn 2,700 yen ($26.28) more each month, a 0.8 percent increase from last year. Workers will also receive about 7,300 yen ($71.09) more monthly based on seniority and promotions. Finally, the company's union pushed through a median bonus of 2.44 million yen ($23,768) for 2014, the highest in 6 years.
The pay boost comes as Toyota forecasts a record 1.9-trillion yen ($18.5 billion) profit for the fiscal year ending on March 31, according to Bloomberg. It has been helped by the Japanese government's efforts to weaken the yen on international markets and expand inflation. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been asking businesses to increase compensation to end years of deflation and offset upcoming higher sales taxes. Honda and Nissan have also raised their wages there in recent months.
Honda invited us to its Southern California North American headquarters last week to take a spin in a very special CR-Z - one modified with a full complement of Honda Performance Development (HPD) components. While the company has been racing with HPD parts for years, this is the first time the automaker has offered them for its street-legal vehicles, and it has chosen this year's SEMA Show in Las Vegas to be the launch venue. Last year, Honda introduced the HPD Supercharged CR-Z Concept at SEMA - this is the slightly modified production version.
The complete transformation gives the normally placid hybrid hatchback a serious shot of adrenaline thanks to a bolt-on supercharger combined with suspension, tire, brake and exhaust upgrades. In addition to the blower (detailed in a bullet point below), new HPD suspension components lower the car by about half an inch, and firmer spring rates stiffen the ride. Stock 16- or 17-inch wheels are then replaced with HPD 18-inch alloys wrapped in sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires (215/40ZR18 at all corners). The clutch is upgraded, a limited-slip differential is installed and new HPD monobloc four-piston calipers are fitted over slotted and ventilated iron rotors up front (the single-pistons over solid discs on the back axle are unchanged). In the rear, the stock hidden single exhaust pipe is replaced by a free-flow twin-tip exhaust that peers out of a new HPD lower diffuser. Other cosmetic enhancements include an HPD front lip spoiler, rear deck lid spoiler and an HPD emblem kit for each side. To say the CR-Z is transformed by the complete HPD package is an understatement.