No matter the country or segment, one-upmanship is built into the DNA of automakers. Whether or not they mention competitors, their actions always refer to a company not present. Honda (NYSE:HMC) is following this classic pattern: a GTChannel report says the automaker is mulling a sporty, lightweight, rear-wheel drive car so affordable it would make people forget Toyota’s (NYSE:TM) Scion FR-S ever existed.
The Scion FR-S, a product of the Toyota 86 project that also yielded the Surbaru BRZ, has garnered quite a reputation for itself in the past few years. Edmunds pointed out that cars modeled after the Porsche (POAHF.PK) Cayman are always welcome among auto enthusiasts, and when the price starts around $25,000 — as the FR-S does — the excitement builds to a frenzy.
Honda’s plan, according to GTChannel’s sources, is to take the happy associations headed the FR-S’s way and channel them into its own little ride, in this case a convertible similar to the celebrated Honda S2000. However, this rear-wheel sports car would be lighter and, at $20,000, much more affordable. The S2000, like the Scion FR-S, had a base model weight around 2,800 pounds; the theoretical new Honda sports car would weigh only 2,000 pounds. Taking this figure into account, the horsepower quote sounds impressive.
GTChannel sources said the engine of the proposed car would be capable of producing 132 horsepower, which would be dramatic in a sports car as light as the new S2000. The suggested price tag of $20,000 would cement Honda’s reputation as the Best Value Brand, a distinction it earned from Kelley Blue Book earlier this year. It would also have a convertible on the market that Toyota never did for the FR-S, all rumors aside. Yet rumor is the only thing Honda sports car enthusiasts have at the moment.
In terms of cars on the road, Honda is working at taking some of Toyota’s market share in the hybrid segment. The new Accord Hybrid will get an Environmental Protection Agency-estimated 50 miles per gallon, a figure likely to entice buyers who made the Toyota Prius the top-selling car in California this year. The Honda Civic is another winner at the moment: last month, the Civic increased 59 percent in sales compared to August 2012.
The only thing that could steal Honda’s thunder would be Toyota’s introduction of a similarly sporty yet more affordable Scion. According to Australian car blog Drive, Toyota is planning to do just that. Toyota 86′s top engineer said the company is working on a rear-wheel drive sports car more affordable than the FR-S, which may put it in the proposed Honda’s ballpark. Let the race begin.
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