Future automobile products are planned a few years in advance and with the volatile world markets these days the job of a product engineering team as well as a product planner is getting harder and harder.

Autonews.com has a very interesting story they managed to squeeze out of Honda’s management at the 2009 Tokyo show centering around one of Honda’s most vital platforms – the Civic platform.

The Civic platform forms the basis of other vehicles like the Stream, the CR-V, and even other Hondas not found in our market such as the Honda Element. The interview revealed that Honda’s original intentions was for the next generation Honda Civic to be even larger and more plush than the current Civic, which has already grown to last decade Accord-ish proportions in terms of length and wheelbase.

Honda Civic Hatchback
The Civic hatchback platform differs from the sedan’s and is smaller.

But that plan has been scrapped. Honda engineers have instead been told to make the Civic smaller and lighter. It’s not 100% clear what this means – the Civic may not necessarily become smaller than the current generation. It could probably mean smaller and lighter than originally intended to be, which would hopefully put it around the same size as the current generation. Honda wants to try creating an increased perception of interior space but keep the exterior dimensions within control.

Another rumour that surfaced a few months ago was that Honda could be splitting the Civic into two lines like Toyota’s Corolla and Corolla Altis, a smaller one for Japanese tax regulations and a larger one for markets that like more metal for their money.

Honda Stream
Stream is based on the Civic platform

But such a mid-way change has caused the project to be somewhat delayed. The current Civic has just been facelifted and a new one is supposed to arrive in 2011, a 5 year cycle after its introduction in 2006. But Honda is putting in more manpower to try to meet the target. If that doesn’t happen, the Civic could be delayed for a year or so. Honda president Takanobu Ito admitted the team was struggling.

This is not unprecedented, the previous generation Corolla Altis was also delayed and we still ended up with an all-new Altis that was pretty much a reskinned previous gen.

CR-Z

Other new upcoming Honda products include the implementation of the hybrid IMA system across more models. Right now it is only available in small to medium cars – the Insight, the Civic Hybrid, and pretty soon the CR-Z. A hybrid minivan is coming – this could mean a few things such as an USDM Odyssey Hybrid or even a Stream Hybrid. Not much else was revealed about which minivan model. There used to be an Accord Hybrid but that was scrapped due to discouraging sales. But larger hybrid vehicles like the Accord Hyrbid is going to make a comeback soon.

Honda revealed that a dual-motor IMA system is currently under development. The dual motor system will be configured in a way that it is able to function as an e-CVT in full electric mode, much like the series-parallel system in the Toyota Prius.

This means Honda will have a two-prong hybrid strategy – a motor assist parallel mode hybrid system for smaller cars and a full hybrid series-parallel system that can be used in larger cars. A series-parallel hybrid is of course more costly and complicated to implement thus more suitable for larger vehicles that are able to carry higher price tags.