2011 Honda Odyssey Video Press Conference Remarks by Art St. Cyr, Chief Engineer and Steven Frey, Principal Engineer Honda R&D Americas, Inc.

June 17, 2010


Art St. Cyr

Hi, I'm Art St. Cyr, Chief Engineer of the 2011 Honda Odyssey.

I'm here with a member of my development team at Honda's R&D Center in Ohio to tell you about the all-new Odyssey coming to Honda showrooms this Fall.

This fourth generation Odyssey is the first one developed by a team of Honda engineers in the U.S. and it will be built exclusively at a Honda plant in Alabama.

But that's only one reason we call this vehicle an "American Odyssey." The majority of my team of engineers are also longtime Odyssey customers. Many of us have owned three or more Odyssey's in our lives.

And we used this intimate knowledge and experience with the product to create an all-new vehicle focused on the needs of American customers within this uniquely North American vehicle segment.

The minivan segment was built on the strength of the Baby Boomers as the main customer.

We had a major challenge in how to keep the minivan characteristics the Baby Boomer customer appreciated while reaching out to a demanding new customer in Generation Y, the first generation to grow up with this vehicle class.

This required more modern styling and more intuitive features, which everyone likes, but GenY demands, all while keeping the legendary functionality that Odyssey has brought to the market in the past.

The current Odyssey is already a class leader in customer satisfaction and we recognize that.

Our objective is first to retain the core values that have made the Odyssey the industry benchmark for minivans, including class-leading fuel economy, safety, quality and reliability. But to create new value, we focused on three core themes: to make the Odyssey more intuitive, more functional and more comfortable, wrapping the entire package in a stylish and distinctive design.

Our goal was to make Odyssey the ultimate family vehicle, really a vehicle for the modern American family. A customer who is more connected to the world and wants to spend more time with family -- desiring quantity time, not just quality time. So, this is a vehicle we think the customer will want to spend a lot of time in.

Today, we're going to show you the 2011 Odyssey's top of the line "Touring Elite" model.

Exterior Styling
The first thing you'll notice with the 2011 Odyssey is a much more stylish shape.

It's lower and wider, which is not just for a sportier look, but it makes it roomier and more aerodynamic.

We recognize the minivan is first and foremost a functional vehicle. One thing we know and confirmed throughout this development was that minivan customers were unwilling to sacrifice any of their interior space and functionality. So, we focused on maintaining and enhancing this interior space.

Let's talk about a few of the new styling features. We start with premium features like high-intensity discharge headlights in the front, and an 18-inch tire and wheel package.

Inside you may notice the bigger brakes for better secure braking feeling.

And, as introduced at the Chicago Auto show, we also moved the door handles closer together for a cleaner look and added safety and style features such as a turn signal to the side mirror.

As Odyssey customers ourselves, we know the importance of being able to identify your vehicle in a sea of minivans and SUVs in parking lots. So, we gave it a signature "lightning bolt design" for a distinctive and fresh modern look.

Our team originally called this "100 meter styling" because we wanted a strong styling statement that will make it easy for our customers to find their Odyssey in a crowded parking lot, even from 100 meters away. .

This new design also provides better visibility from inside, allowing us to lower the glass line for better visibility for third row passengers.

But with this distinctive styling, we found in our focus group research that people were surprised to learn that we could make this interior more functional and roomy, even with this sporty styling package.

As I already mentioned we realize that functionality is still the main reason people buy minivans. So, our goal was to enhance our class-leading interior functionality from the current Odyssey.

First Row Area

Steven Frey

Hi, I'm Steven Frey, principal engineer for the 2011 Honda Odyssey. As Art stated, we've created a new interior design focused on the three themes of making this Odyssey more intuitive, more functional and more comfortable.

Let me show you specifically how we worked toward this in the front row. And as you'll see, the execution is really about attention to detail from the moment you open the door -- from the convenience of a puddle light at the bottom of the front door to the improved interior ambient lighting in the foot area, and as well as from overhead.

We've made a significant effort to increase the comfort in the front row. One area of focus was to identify the surfaces that the customers most often touch, by adding padding to areas like the door lining upper and the armrests. We've made our customer's "quantity time," more enjoyable on those long family drives.

As Art mentioned, the increased exterior width has directly translated to an increased interior width -- we added almost an inch of extra shoulder room here in the front row.

And to further improve seat comfort, we added a new power lumbar feature, which gives the driver 10-way power adjustment -- something that discerning customers can really appreciate.

In this technology age, we also set out to make Odyssey more intuitive.

Our design concept for the center stack area was to separate the heating & cooling controls, the 12-speaker premium sound audio controls and the navigation system into three distinct areas.

We identified the primary use controls for each, and relocated them to make them easier to find and more intuitive to use. Of course we paid attention to even the smallest of details, like moving the glove box latch closer to the driver, moving the heated seat switches to the heating and cooling area and simplifying the operation of our navigation system.

We also understand with today's modern family, there is an increasing need for hidden, secure storage that is functional and easy to use, so we wanted to enhance and improve their ability to store the ever increasing number of new gadgets in the market.

To address this need, we added what we're calling the "Media Tray," specifically designed to hold things like your cell phones and MP3 players. We even moved the power outlets directly next to this unique new storage compartment and found room to add a cup holder.

Now let me tell you about an experience that one of our team members shared with us.

On his long family trips, he would bring along a small cooler to keep his drinks and snacks cool. The problem was finding a good place to put it that was safe and easy to access. We took this challenge and created the "cool box" function.

Inside this even larger storage compartment there's enough room in here to store drinks and snacks for you and your kids. We sized it to fit common-use items like six 12-oz, cans or even four 20-oz. beverage bottles, and it will keep them cold for hours.

To compliment these functional storage compartments, we also added this new center console, which we designed to hold large items such as a purse. We also looked at the new and unique beverage containers in the market today, and made these cup holders functional with drinks as small as a red bull, or as large as a big gulp. We even made it removable to allow easy access into the second row.

Now, with all of these new storage areas, combined with those in the door liners, you'll have ample room to hold small, medium and large items, all within easy reach of the driver.

Second Row Area

Now, let me show you how we improved the comfort and functionality of the second row, with flexible seating that operates in three main configurations to comfortably and easily accommodate the needs of either adults or children.

The primary seating configuration is with two captain's chairs, and the center seat in the down position. In this configuration, you can really get a feel for the interior spaciousness of the second row.

Let me highlight some of the features here:

Cup and bottle holders in the center console, door linings and the arm rest.

Not only does the center seat make a great arm rest, but we increased its width by four inches to make it a seat everyone can enjoy sitting in.

And, our all-new 16.2 inch Ultra-Wide Rear Entertainment System with the ability to show movies in true wide mode, or split the screen in half, and allow two separate inputs, for those times when your children can't agree on what to watch on those long family road trips.

And as all parents know, kids generate lots of trash, so we decided to add this new feature which we're calling the "Trash Ring". The ring flips up from the base of the center console, and easily fits a standard plastic shopping bag. You assemble it around the ring and it fits securely in place. Now there's no reason to find empty hamburger wrappers on the floor at the end of your next family vacation.

The primary mode offers the maximum amount of head and shoulder room, but we wanted to offer even more functional and flexible seating configurations, so we took advantage of the wider exterior, and created the second seating configuration called "Wide Mode" seating. Here, both outboard seats move almost two inches, allowing us to fit among the largest child seats in the market in all three seats, and each seat has its own child seat anchors.

The third seating configuration offers the most flexibility and functionality. For families with children in two car seats, we've added a comfort slide feature to the center seat. You can move your infant almost six inches closer to you in the front row. Re-inserting the pacifier does not require pulling over to the side of the road any more.

Earlier we mentioned the low and wide design of this new Odyssey, and here is one of the primary benefits of this wider package. Even with two child seats in use in the second row, with a simple tip and slide motion the outboard seat slides forward creating ample space for an adult to ingress into the third row. And to make this even easier, we relocated the seat lever for more intuitive access.

Third Row Area

While the second row was designed to accommodate three child seats, the third row was designed to enable three adults to sit comfortably.

We made the interior cabin wider back here for increased adult comfort by keeping the slide door motor below shoulder height. This was the key to enabling three adults to sit in the rear.

We also increased 3rd row leg room by one inch and added a center arm rest

New for the 2011 Odyssey, is an integrated third-row sunshade to go along with those in the second row.

The combination of extra shoulder room, leg room and as Art mentioned earlier, the lower glass line, creates a much more spacious feeling in the third row.

So, this is not only a comfortable space for adults, but with HDMI and RCA jacks and a 150-watt power outlet, the third row becomes a great space for families that want or need to create a separate area for older children, away from younger siblings.

Interior Summary

A critical aspect of Odyssey's value to American families has been the flexibility provided by the large, accessible cargo area. This vehicle is used for everything from a commuter vehicle, to a kid hauler, to a cargo hauler. So we needed to focus on what this vehicle can carry in addition to people.

We retained Odyssey's great cargo capabilities for large items like luggage, golf clubs, hockey bags and even larger items such as 4 x 8 sheets of plywood.

In addition, we also added some functional, smaller storage bays where you can organize and safely stow washer fluid, first aid kits and other items that are needed by today's families.

Making all of this even easier to manage, is a further enhancement of the innovative third row Magic Seat that Honda introduced to the industry more than a decade ago. With a more intuitive one-strap stowage concept, we have improved the ability to stow or lift the magic seat with this simple strap. Now, the storage area has become even easier to use.

I've just given you some exciting interior features that make this 2011 Odyssey more intuitive, more functional and more comfortable. I haven't touched on every interior feature, such as the 15 cup holders, cargo hooks and other surprises that we've added based on our focus on the real world needs of our customers -- including those we discovered through our own experience as customers of this vehicle.

Summary

Art St. Cyr

We hope you enjoyed your first look at the 2011 Odyssey.

The reality is that we've only begun to tell you about all of the things that make the all-new Odyssey a truly special vehicle...something that will live up to our billing as the "ultimate family vehicle."

In the days ahead, we'll offer you more information about how we enhanced Odyssey's already class-leading dynamic performance through fuel economy, safety as well as some other proprietary features that create a more intuitive, and functional experience for the driver and all passengers.

We hope you can begin to appreciate the meaningful changes that you will find in this all-new "American Odyssey."

This year marks the 35th anniversary of our startup of research and development activities in America. And in many ways this 2011 Honda Odyssey represents another great example of our ability to design, develop and engineer vehicles from scratch right here in America.

But more important than where it was conceived, is the fact that we created this vehicle with a complete focus on the wants and needs of American customers, and we can't wait to share even more details with you a little later this year.

Thanks for your attention and so long for now!

Video Module Transcripts

Real Family Logic

Art St. Cyr

One of the interesting things is that during one of our team meetings, we actually thought it would be fun to add up how many Odysseys each of the team members had, and over the years, we realized that as a team we have owned 46 Odysseys in our lifetimes. So we have a lot of intimate experience with Odysseys and our families using Odysseys. We used this as an opportunity to enhance some of the already class-leading features that we have on this current Odyssey.

For example, the third row seat has a one-touch, stow function. On the current Odyssey we actually improved that. Instead of having a handle and a strap, we actually changed that to have just a single strap so you can stow and fold the seat down more easily. One of the other things that we did was enhance the logic of the slide door. We know this is a family vehicle that carries parents that are often times dropping their kids off at play dates, at school, at pools, or whatever they're doing, so we enhanced the ability to open the slide door when the vehicle's not in park..

So as long as the vehicle is not moving, you're able to open and close the slide door without the alarm going off. There are many examples of features in this vehicle that are present because we understand the Odyssey customer and how the Odyssey is used. We think it's a much more improved vehicle...a vehicle that customers will really appreciate the attention to detail that we have.

Input from Honda Families

Art St. Cyr
One of the things that was very important for us when we made this minivan, was to make it very intuitive for the customer to use. So in order to validate that goal, for the first time ever at Honda Research and Development, we actually brought our families in to check the vehicle out at a very early development stage. So we had them actually use the controls the way that we thought that they should be used, and what we found was there were many minor changes we could make to make the vehicle much more intuitive for the customer.

On our head unit, we have a CD player and a DVD player. We had a label that said CD and DVD, but during what we're calling the non-expert check, we found people actually trying to put a DVD in the CD slot. So we moved those labels where the CD is on the top, and the DVD is on the bottom. It is now very clear. Also, with our ultra wide rear entertainment system, you can show two movies at the same time on that screen.

We also wanted to find a way to swap the images on the rear entertainment screen, but we found this was somewhat difficult to do. In the end, we added a button that says, "SWAP," to make this function very easy. So, in the end we made a lot of changes. In the end, we made almost 50 different changes based on the "non-expert" check, and we think that the end result is going be a very intuitive vehicle that the customer will really appreciate and easily understand how to use all the controls.

Sleek Exterior, Surprisingly Large Interior

Art St. Cyr
At our focus groups we had an exterior styling mockup and an interior styling mockup that we had customers get in and out of. The general feedback that we received, which really surprised us, was that they really, really liked the exterior styling that you see here. However, when they got in the interior mockup, nobody believed that we could actually fit all the space they found into this exterior styling.

When we asked them which one of the cars was their favorite, they didn't necessarily pick this one, because they said it didn't appear to have enough space for what they need. So, we think they'll be really surprised when they actually see that all that stuff that we wanted to have in this vehicle is in this vehicle.

Walk-Through Flexibility

Art St. Cyr
The current Odyssey has a fold down tray in the vehicle. The purpose of the improved fold down tray in the new Odyssey was to allow the customers to move into the back row from the front row and basically have some walk-through functionality. What we found through our research is that two things happened. One was that customers don't really use that walk-through feature very often. And the second finding was that the customers really desired more storage space, especially in the front row of the vehicle.

So what we did in this case was to try to make the best of both worlds. We installed a center console that has huge storage space inside, enough to fit a woman's purse, CDs and anything that you might want to store in the center console. But we also added a feature that actually made it removable. So for customers that actually desire to walk through into the backseat, they're able to remove that center console, walk through to the backseat, reinstall it, and still have all the storage they want.

Along with that center console being removable, it provides the flexibility of being able to put long objects such as 2X4s or PVC pipe in the removable console space. We think this is the best of both worlds, allowing the customer the flexibility to choose the configuration that they want.

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