Thank you and good afternoon everyone.
Honda has long enjoyed a special relationship with our customers in America. And we are a better company because of the many challenges we have faced to meet their needs. In 2004, we marked the 25th anniversary of Honda's U.S. production. Last year, we reached the 30-year milestone of Honda research & development in America. And this spring, we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Acura brand.
A few weeks ago, we announced a strategy to bring Acura to Japan in 2008. And Acura will be introduced in China this spring. We are taking these big steps to make Acura a global brand. The Honda and Acura brands will offer their own distinct identities. And all future Acura models ... throughout the world ... will be exclusive to the brand. To achieve this, we will strengthen the structure at Honda R&D in Japan to more clearly focus the development of products for each brand.
We are very confident about this strategy because of the strength of the Acura brand in North America. Acura was born in America as the first Japanese luxury brand. Now, Acura has record sales momentum - last year surpassing 200-thousand units in the U.S. for the first time.
Key to this growth and expansion is that Acura has separated itself from traditional luxury brands ... by offering performance luxury products that take their prestige from advanced technology ... always ahead of the times. Recent examples include Super Handling All Wheel Drive, Real-time Traffic information and a Collision Mitigation Braking System ... each already applied to the Acura RL.
Another key to distinguish the Acura brand is the keen design and packaging of our products. To further enhance this direction, a new Acura design studio will open in California in early 2007 ... close to our existing R&D headquarters. The TL and MDX demonstrate how our U.S. teams can design and develop great products. In this new studio, designers and stylists from around the world will play a lead role in designing future Acura models.
This Acura strategy means that the Honda brand must also have a strong identity. And the Honda brand has never been more clear ... with a focus on "Clean, safe and fun." Importantly, we have created products that achieve all three values.
Honda has always led the way in reducing emissions, advancing fuel economy
and developing alternative fuel technologies. Our goal is to provide what Honda
engineers many years ago called Blue Skies for our Children.
Since then, we have considered it as our responsibility to produce the most environmentally responsible products and technologies possible ... even as we satisfy our customers. Now ... to further advance environmental conservation, I think the entire auto industry must think of "we" - not just "me." Each company must take responsibility and action by continuing to improve every product.
Toward this end, I want to challenge the entire industry, including Honda, to further improve fuel efficiency. So, let's enter a race together. A race for the benefit of all customers and the global environment.
Last year, Honda announced our plan to improve the fuel efficiency of each product line - automobiles, motorcycles and power equipment. We already lead the industry in fuel efficiency. But by 2008, we will introduce a new 4-cylinder internal combustion engine to improve fuel efficiency by up to 13 percent from 2005 levels. And a V-6 engine with new VCM technology will improve basic V-6 efficiency by up to 11 percent over 2005. And we will not stop there.
At the same time, we continue to invest in advanced future technologies. The current Honda FCX is now in use by an individual customer in the real world. And today, we are showing the FCX Concept. This car is very close to the next generation fuel cell vehicle we will debut in 3-to-4 years. In fact, this fall ... we will begin limited driving opportunities with a prototype version of this vehicle.
But ... again ... the auto industry must think of "we"
- not just "me." We cannot just develop the vehicle. We must
make a commitment to address the fueling infrastructure that will enable our
customers to use these cars in the real world.
Toward this end, we just introduced Home Energy Station III, the 3rd generation of Honda's challenge to provide customers with the possibility to refuel their fuel cell vehicle. It will also generate clean power and hot water for the home.
Importantly, we have shown that environmentally advanced vehicles can also meet advanced safety standards. Honda has completed the initial commitment of our Safety for Everyone approach - offering advanced safety on our vehicles regardless of size or price. For example ... side curtain airbags and ABS are standard on vehicles from the upcoming subcompact Fit to the Ridgeline truck.
You can really see the benefit of this commitment on the new Civic. With Honda's ACE body, we are addressing vehicle-to-vehicle compatibility in frontal collisions like no other automaker. And Civic recently became the first compact car to achieve the IIHS "Top Safety Pick - Gold" award.
Safety for Everyone is an ongoing commitment to our customers and society. You can see some of our future safety concepts with the ASV3 vehicles ... technologies that help sense the potential for collisions. Again, our commitment is not just "me" protection, but "we" protection ... trying to make transportation safer for all road users.
Through all of these efforts ... we are providing new value to our customers and society ... helping Honda maintain our special relationship with the American people ... and achieving our goal of being a company that society wants to exist.
Now, I would like to introduce Dick Colliver, who will introduce a new model that fits with Honda's clean, safe and fun brand values. Thank you.