Auburn Honda goes green
Honda dealerships nationwide are advertising their “Think Green” campaign, focusing on Honda’s line of hybrid vehicles, and Auburn Honda is no exception. The showroom and lot are packed with stock featuring “Think Green” and “Save Green” stickers, with good reason: Honda’s hybrids are some of the best on the market and consumer trends are focusing on vehicles that are less harmful to the environment than the gas guzzlers of old.
Honda got into the automobile market back in the early 1970s, when the first gas crunch hit. They were very popular vehicles because, although the first models were small and very compact, they were inexpensive, well-made and ‘something that was reliable as heck’, according to Jay Cooper, owner and General Manager at Auburn Honda. Cooper, who has been around Honda vehicles for nearly three decades, says the company has mirrored their customer’s needs beginning with those first cars designed with young people in mind to the current stock of sporty, utilitarian and hybrid cars, trucks, vans and SUVs.
Honda has been producing hybrid vehicles longer than anybody, according to Cooper, another example of meeting customer’s needs, especially in this part of the state. “I truly believe that this area in Northern California has always been a little bit ahead of the rest of the state and the country as far as putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to the green issues,” says Cooper.
That technology also produced the first natural gas-powered vehicle and first electric car on the road, Cooper said. “Honda has always been a company that’s been known for first, their engines and secondly, being very efficient as far as the way that they’ve run: good gas mileage, low emissions, the hybrids, the technology.” Honda has won the Car of the Year award for five of the past six years and Cooper thinks the new Accord is a ‘dead ringer’ for the 2008 award.
Cooper said much of the technology in use today by other companies was pioneered by Honda and the company has more surprises in store in the coming years. “Within the next three to four, possible five years at the most, you’re going to see some tremendous advancements from American Honda with utilizing new technologies, with fuel cells, with clean diesel engines and advanced hybrid technology that we’re using today,” according to Cooper.
The Honda Civic is the most popular car sold by Honda, primarily because of its gas mileage, currently rated at 45 mpg highway. The Honda Accord hybrid, though larger than the Civic, doesn’t get the same mileage (35 mpg) and is, therefore, not quite as popular as its smaller cousin. It is the difference in vehicle weight that causes the difference in gas consumption, Cooper said, which is why SUV hybrids get a lower miles-per-gallon rating and don’t sell as well as the more economical, lighter sedans.
The Civic hybrid comes standard with a 4-cylinder 1.3-liter gasoline engine that uses Honda’s IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) system, paired with a lightweight, high-output electric motor. The motor adds torque when the engine needs extra power, such as during acceleration and takes over when the vehicle is operating at speeds less than 35 mph. An idle-stop feature automatically shuts off the gasoline engine when the vehicle comes to a stop, ending gasoline consumption, and restarts when your foot is lifted off the brake. In addition, the motor turns itself into a generator during braking, storing energy in the batteries while helping to slow the car. The hybrid powertrain automatically recharges each time the car is driven and the battery pack comes with an eight-year/80,000-mile limited warranty.
The Honda Accord hybrid comes with a 253-hp, 3.0-liter, 24-valve, i-VTEC V-6 engine, also with the IMA system. Featuring Variable Cylinder Management (VCM), the engine will activate or deactivate the three rear cylinders as needed, giving the vehicle the power of a V-6 when climbing or accelerating and the efficiency of a smaller engine when cruising. “When you’re cruising at 65 mph, you don’t need all six cylinders,” Cooper said. “It will literally go from six cylinders down to two cylinders.” Honda is working on increasing the mileage ratings on new models with advanced VCM technology, according to Cooper.
The dealerships itself has gone green in an effort to save money and do something positive for the environment. Cooper flipped the switch on Auburn Honda’s solar power grid on September 24th, a move that saves the company about $3,000 per month in utility bills and has removed one large power consumer off the local power grid. “Our average consumption is somewhere around 60-70,000 watts (per day); on a real heavy day during the summer when the air conditioning is going, it’s about 80,000 watts,” Cooper said. “The system will actually produce 195,000 watts, so it runs backwards. It’s so fun to see the PG&E meter going the other direction for a change.” He used government tax credits to help structure payment for the solar system, which will provide free power once it’s paid for (in three-four years).
Located at 1801 Grass Valley Highway in Auburn, California, Auburn Honda’s service department is home to two Master Technicians (out of 44 nationwide) and is a ‘Certified Express’ service center, where two technicians at a time work on a vehicle service, cutting the service time in half while providing more specialized attention to the vehicle. Auburn Honda has always been the foothills’ Honda dealership and Cooper is proud of his 28 years there. “This is our front yard and our backyard and we’re very blessed to have this area, and I can’t think of many other places I’d rather be,” Cooper said.
More information about Honda vehicles is available at http://www.honda.com. Auburn Honda can be reached at 530-823-7234 or 1-800-576-7234. The dealership also has its own website at http://www.auburbhonda.com.
NASCAR Note: The Nextel Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway, with the Car of Tomorrow making its first appearance at that track, proved to be a bit of a yawner until “the Big One” occurred on lap 145 (the Big One is a large wreck involving many cars that happens at least once with regularity at the restrictor-plate tracks in Talladega and Daytona). Jeff Gordon made a move on the last lap that gave him the race win and the driver points lead once again. Next stop is Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Charlotte, North Carolina for a Saturday night race under the lights.
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