Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Honda’s Asimo saves the day

March 4, 2009

Talk about a clever PR ploy. Instead of looking miserly with a subdued presence at the Geneva auto show, Honda Motor drew attention to its latest hybrid car by employing another of its technological wonders: the Asimo humanoid robot.

Japan’s No.2 carmaker usually holds full-blown press conferences at international auto shows as is the industry norm, with the chief executive on hand to talk up the company’s achievements and product offerings in front of hundreds of journalists.

But with cash preservation the name of the game these days, Honda decided to try something else: replace the CEO with the now-famous Asimo, a 120 cm-tall, bubble-headed robot to introduce the Insight hybrid. Asimo is another “product” that Honda hopes to market one day as a “personal mobility” assistant to help the elderly or do simple work around the office such as distributing mail.


“It was cheaper than flying the CEO over from Tokyo for the show,” spokesman Shigeki Endo told me before the show, which opened to the media on Tuesday. This Asimo – Honda has several, including one at its headquarters in Tokyo – resides at a studio in Brussels.

“I’m really interested in hybrid technology,” the bug-eyed Asimo said in a boyish voice after being introduced by another spokesman at the Honda booth at the annual Geneva show.

During a sometimes surreal 20-minute presentation for journalists, Asimo fetched two green teas and stood diligently by the Insight on stage as a spokesman chatted with an engineer about the merits of the Insight, Honda’s first low-cost hybrid car.

After some specifications were rattled off including the Insight’s top speed of 189 km (117 miles) per hour, Asimo waved both hands in a plea for attention.

“I also run on batteries, and my top speed is impressive too,” he said, before taking his marks, loosening up his knees and ankles, and dashing across the stage at 6 km/hour — a record for Asimo-kind.

It was a brief moment of comic relief at another hectic auto show.

Photo credit: REUTERS/Valentin Flauraud (SWITZERLAND)


Does Asimo do politics? With his charisma and speed, gotta rate him as favourite in an Aso-Asimo race. Ah, but his dad, grandad or great-uncle wasn’t a pol, so he probably doesn’t stand a chance. Ho hum. Asimo doesn’t have any shady connections to dodgy construction companies, does he?


Given the size of the Honda team that travels with Asimo to program and service him, it would probably be cheaper to send the human executive, actually.


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