In a surprise announcement, Honda has decided to close design operations in Europe, based in Germany. The decision to shut down both the car design and motorcycle design studios of Honda R&D Europe (HRE-G) in Offenbach, near Frankfurt was taken at the end of September and came as a shock announcement to employees. It represents the latest casualty in cuts for the car design community.
The decision follows other recent measures made by the Japanese company this year to stem growing losses. In January, the UK factory was closed for four months and the company decided not to attend the recent Frankfurt Motor Show.
"This is a regrettable structure change due to the current economic picture," Honda spokesman Christophe Rust told CDN. "The German design activities will be discontinued with effect from the end of November".
The future for Honda's design activities in Europe remains unclear. While motorcycle design is likely to be transferred to the company's Italian design studio in Rome, it is uncertain what will happen for their car design operations in Europe. Honda opened a small 200m² design office in Milan, Segno Milano S.r.l, back in 2001, but it reported independently to Japan and has not played a significant role in their design activities to date.
The Offenbach design studios opened in 1992 and are housed over two floors in a 3000m² facility including two full-size modeling plates, milling operations, CAD, presentation hall and a viewing garden. The car studio was responsible for a number of concepts, including the 2008 OSM, the Small Hybrid Sports from 2007 and the Neukom unveiled at the 1999 Tokyo Auto Show.
The other R&D activities at Offenbach will remain for now. These include powertrain development, testing, market research and advanced technology research.