The German magazine Auto Motor und Sport is a well-respected outlet and it is reporting that it has picked up rumours that suggest that McLaren may be trying to put together a new alliance for the future with Honda, which was its partner back in the 1980s and 1990s, when the team enjoyed huge success. The report says that the aim is for McLaren to use a Honda V6 Turbo in 2014. This would not be a surprise. The current deal with Mercedes Benz goes until 2015 at least but this can be terminated. The company is just going through the motions of buying the final 16 percent of the team that was previously owned by the German car manufacturer, the German competition authority began looking at the final transaction last week and clearance is expected shortly. The team is thus in a position to negotiate new deals as it pleases. There has been talk of the team doing its own thing on the engine front but this would be very expensive and the argument in Woking is that the logic of a racing engine department would require the sale of a lot more cars than is currently the case. A new alliance with a manufacturer is the logical next step if there is no in-house plan and Honda is an obvious choice for an engine. There have been rumours from Japan for some time that Honda was planning to return to F1 and is ready to go as soon as the board gives the go-ahead. The new generation engine with green technology to the fore is just what Honda wants to be associated with.
The company is still headed by Takanobu Ito, who took over in 2009 and made the decision to pull Honda out of F1 at the time. Ito has been with Honda since 1978, beginning as an R&D engineer specializing in chassis design. He was in charge of developing the all-aluminum uni-body frame structure for the mid-engine NSX sports car that went on sale in 1990. In 1998 he went to the United States to be Executive Vice President of Honda R&D Americas, where he became actively involved in the development of the Acura brand’s first sport-utility vehicle and was then named head of Honda R&D in 2003 and has been a key decision-maker in motorsport activities since that era, in addition to being head of the Suzuka factory.
In a recent interview with Asahi Shimbun, Ito said that Honda must become een more international a company because of the strong yen as exporting cars from Japan to other markets is no longer cost-effective and the plan is to move production to local markets.
“Japan can no longer be a global center in terms of a manufacturing and exporting base,” he said. “Over a 10-year period, we will gradually shift to a system in which production and sales in each of the regions is about the same and exporting as a supplementary measure to make up for those products that are lacking in foreign markets. We will maintain the current structure of manufacturing 1 million vehicles in Japan. We will increase domestic sales to make up for the decrease in exports. We want Japan to continue to remain as the global center of knowledge and development.”