- Nate Kuhn
Honda's 6:1 ratio
There’s been a pretty common statement that many popular Hollywood actors will often announce that I like hearing:
“I do one for them, and one for me.” Or some variation on that theme.
They usually say this when they have become a proper A-Lister and have gotten sucked into doing mostly large budget/mainstream projects. Things that bring eight-digit paychecks that make them household names but tend to not give them much in the way of acting satisfaction like the theater or indie movie scene they cut their teeth with that gave them more artistic and creative license.
I get it. Once you start making a product for EVERYONE (like a big budget blockbuster movie), you can’t really get weird/quirky/unique like when pure profit wasn’t the goal. It’s really cool when these actors/directors/etc. decide to not chase a payday and go back to something that is a bit less universally appealing - usually you get the best out of them. You see releases that don’t always make immediate sense as to why they exist, but tend to be love-it or hate it results that make an impression on both sides. Such a thing isn’t how you “print money” but tends to make for the most passionate creations.
For anyone still reading a car article, here is where the point emerges.
Of every vehicle manufacturer, nobody delivers this principle more reliably than Honda. I noticed this about 10-15 years ago, and I call it Honda’s 6:1 rule. Now, for those nitpicker readers, it’s not an exact science, but 6:1 is the ballpark number I use and it’s pretty close.
Allow me to explain. Honda is obviously an ENORMOUS company, and all enormous companies are in the business of making money. In the car world, the formula that works best is large volume, affordable and reliable transportation. Make a vehicle with those three pillars of excellence and you will do very well. Since Honda basically wrote the book on affordable and reliable transportation in large volumes, they would seem to have no reason to deviate from this practice.
And yet… Every few new vehicles they release they go a bit nuts and make something brilliantly unique, weird, brave and/or groundbreaking with what seems sometimes as reckless abandon of profit. Honda has a long history of unique offerings but here’s just a few examples of what I'm talking about to shine a light on this theory.
Most of what we think of when we imagine Honda vehicles over the years follow the same basic description: In most consumer segments, Honda offers an option that is slightly more expensive than the cheapest option, tends to be modestly powered (comparatively), and while a good choice in the segment rarely is the emotional/fun/enthusiast choice. It’s often the semi-boring but smart purchase option. This is not a dig on Honda, it’s pretty true.
But then there’s some standouts that DON’T follow that description.
After the majority of the 1980s making very good cheap boxes, Honda came out of nowhere with the NSX - trading the battle against the American sedan to fight Ferrari (and every other exotic performance car). The world went “wait, what just happened?” and while that car influenced others in their stable with a trickle down effect of tech, by and large, Honda went right back to making normal stuff for a decade. Following the NSX, we were gifted the Odyssey, the CRV, and multiple new iterations of the Civic and Accord (all great vehicles, but nothing as unique/interesting as the NSX).
Then after about 6 “boring” releases following the NSX, they unleashed the S2000. A hardcore driver’s car. A Honda with RWD and a habit for being snappy? Enthusiasts rejoiced and salivated at a new decade of Hondas that were more like this. But no. They went back to mainstream stuff again.
They constantly follow a similar pattern - for every S2000-esque curveball release, there’s a fleet of strict segment-based designs for years on end. And then after you’ve almost given up on Honda something unique/weird/wild comes out without a follow-up for a while after. The cycle continues. I mean, they also have crazy robot tech and made the Honda Jet too! Honda just releases very predictable and well made products one after the other until they drop some weird thing that makes everyone stop in their tracks and ask "what in the???".
Even something less extreme like the Ridgeline was still out of nowhere when Honda just decided to make a unibody truck with a trunk under the bed. Then RIGHT back to a new CRV, Odyssey and Fit.
They do it in motorcycles as well, perhaps even more blatantly predictable in their routine. They tend to have the steadfast markets covered, but occasionally they create something entirely new or unique. They routinely (like their cars) have an offering in most mainstream segments that is slightly underpowered but dead reliable and usually the choice you’d make for anyone who asked for a good choice but not always what you dream about yourself. Then, every few years they come out with some of the most innovative, unique and wild motorcycles ever. In the past 20 years, the list of most “out there” new releases is littered with Honda more than anyone else combined.
In all honestly, I have never looked up the ratio. I call it Honda’s 6:1 because that’s about what it feels like, but the number doesn’t matter - what matters is that Honda keeps it real. They are indeed mainstream reliable transportation, but at their core they are innovators who never stop trying to invent something new that people need or want that isn’t available to them in one way or another.
But occasionally they pop their heads up from mainstream to give us a Civic Type R, a VFR motorcycle (a V-4 engine with VTEC - I’m absolutely serious), a hybrid supercar in the NSX or the first ever DCT on a motorcycle which honestly they’ve been doing for a decade already and nearly perfected it when I tried a new Goldwing last summer.
Honda does 6 for them, 1 for themselves. The quirky releases are the indie films Honda makes for us passionate enthusiasts. They have ZERO financial need to do this, and in some cases I’m sure these oddball releases are a loss leader and I absolutely love them for occasionally doing it.
Honestly, I can’t wait to see what the next one will be.
I write and I know things. I am also the resident motorcycle expert at Everyday Driver - check out the Cycle Report - www.thecyclereport.com - on our YouTube channel. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and may not align with the founders of Everyday Driver.