Erik Berkman, the new North American development chief of Honda Motor Co., is hoping to apply the speed and creativity of motor-sports to product development. Last month, Dario Franchitti won the Indianapolis 500 using the V-6 IndyCar racing engine, which Berkman designed together with his team.
Berkman now hopes to embrace what founder Soichiro Honda has said: "If Honda does not race, there is no Honda.” Berkman is the first American to be Honda’s R&d president. He is heading the team in the development of various models from a modified Civic to a new Accord that’s slated to come out this year because of the Acura overhaul that includes the NSX supercar.
Berkman, who was with Honda for 30 years, is planning to gain back its image of producing innovative cars amid the rising threat posed by improved models from Korean, U.S. and German competition automakers. Berkman, who is 53 years old, said that Honda is under high pressure to get back its “magic” at one time.
Honda, led by engineers, has always been known for product development and engine innovations. But in the last decade, Honda has taken fewer risks on core models because of tight cost controls.
Berkman is tasked to supervise eight Honda and Acura models developed in the U.S. Berkman will need to determine a way to work through all the challenges the company faces like the economic recession, impact of natural calamities, and the currency problem. Honda is controlling its expenses so tightly but Berkaman hopes to upgrade its interiors and to add more content.