For the past two weeks the automotive world as a whole has focused on the Detroit Auto Show. However, several thousand miles away from the NAIAS fanfare another automotive show fired off this past week – The Montreal International Auto Show.
Unsurprisingly, it’s not very often that a Japanese car premieres at the Montreal Auto Show. Most big brand auto-makers aren’t interested in the poorly-timed NAIAS competitor since it typically draws much smaller crowds and much less press than the US-equivalent. None the less, this week Honda decided to break the rules and debut a brand-new concept car at the Montreal Auto Show.
Introducing the Honda GEAR Concept
First, let’s look at the obvious – the Honda GEAR Concept Study is a compact three-door hatchback with a Prius-like wedge design. Someone had to take up the call to carry on the “wedge car” in lieu of Toyota’s abandonment, so our Prius-loving readers will be relieved to see the trend has passed into good hands.
But other than a tried and true geometric design, what else should you know about the Honda GEAR?
Well, the GEAR debuted with a very clear target audience. The car is small – very small – so much so that it makes the Honda Fit look unwieldy by comparison. It doesn’t take a Masters degree in marketing to see that Honda intends the GEAR to be the vehicle that gets its foot in the door with city-drivers. The press release confirms this fact; Honda says that the GEAR is “a vehicle that demonstrates Honda’s innovative approach to providing the automotive answer for young, urban, Gen-Y lifestyles.”
Why The “GEAR” Moniker?
You’re going to love this – the Honda GEAR is named to pay homage to the fixed-gear bicycles that serve as eco- and budget-friendly transportation to urbanites all over the world. A fixed-gear bicycle is cheap, reliable, easy to store, trendy and clean… And that’s exactly the angle that Honda is looking to hit with the GEAR Concept Study Model. Design Director Dave Marek says “subcompact cars are usually either utilitarian, but uninspiring or they’re fun, zippy cars that are impractical and too expensive for the Gen-Y buyer. The GEAR Concept tears down those walls – it’s practical but fun, customizable, connected and affordable.”
Will the Honda GEAR finally allow Honda to break into the Gen-Y-dominated city car market? Honestly, it is too early to tell. My intuition would tell me that a lot of this vehicle’s success or failure will depend on its pricing. That may seem obvious, but young drivers more than any other are limited by a budget, so shelling out for a new car requires it to be extremely affordable. Yes, the engine, fuel economy, interior design, reliability, driveability, etc. will all play a role in the car’s success or failure, but when you’re aiming young, you’ve got to deliver at a low price. Furthermore, this is only a concept model, so a lot could change between now and production. Either way you cut it, the Honda GEAR is another Japanese car that we should all keep tabs on over the next year as this concept develops into a production-ready vehicle.