Responding to public demand, Honda demonstrated an especially dog-friendly version of its Element SUV at the recent New York Auto Show.
According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, Inc., more than a third of all households own at least one dog with an estimated total U.S. dog population of 74.8 million. Pet purchases and related products and services comprised an estimated total market value of more than $43 billion in 2008.
The Element has long been recognized for its dog- and activity-friendly interior with an easy-to-clean urethane floor, moisture-resistant seat fabric, an expansive flat cargo area (up to 74.6 cubic feet with rear seats removed), wide-opening side cargo doors, a low lift-in height, and large dimensions that easily accommodate tall items. Honda received such a positive response to the WOW (Wonderful Open hearted Wagon) it unveiled at the 2005 Tokyo Motor show, that the company decided to create a similar version for the United States market featuring dog friendly components and a dedicated restraint system designed specifically for pet owners. A finalized version of the Dog Friendly Element (as well as pricing) is scheduled to debut this Fall.
Major components will likely include:
* a cushioned pet bed in the cargo area with an elevated platform;
* second-row and cargo area pet restraint systems;
* an extendable cargo area loading ramp;
* a 12-volt DC rear ventilation fan;
* second-row seat covers with a fun dog pattern design that matches the bed fabric;
* all-season rubber floor mats with a toy bone pattern;
* a spill-resistant water bowl; and
* dog friendly exterior emblems.
"In an interesting turn of events, cars are now chasing dogs," said John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda, during last month's presentation at New York's Jacob Javits Convention Center. "Factory integration of a cushioned pet bed, restraint systems, and other components is intended to transform the Element into the ultimate dog car."
Watch the video of Honda's unveiling of the Dog Friendly Element here at YouTube.com
The dog friendly equipment is designed to allow owners to transport their dog (or dogs) in the second-row passenger seats or in the cargo area. The restraint system concepts were designed and fabricated by Takata Corporation (one of the world's leading automotive safety systems suppliers), exclusively for demonstration in this Dog Friendly Honda Element concept vehicle, though the restraint concepts are intended to complement the potential of the vehicle's existing restraint systems by helping to protect the animal and to prevent injuries to other vehicle occupants due to an unrestrained dog impacting them in a collision. For convenience, a ramp is included to help dogs access the padded rear cargo area (the ramp stores underneath the bed platform and can be conveniently accessed when the rear tailgate is down). For Fido's comfort, a small fan provides additional ventilation.
"In-vehicle pet restraints should be part of every dog owner's safe travel practices," said Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. "The expanded availability of manufacturer-based restraints and features can help elevate pet comfort and convenience for owners. Good ventilation and access to water on longer trips should also be primary concerns."
The consumer pet travel advice Web site, www.Dogcars.com, honored the 2007 Honda Element with its first-ever "Dog Car of the Year" award. Substantially restyled for the 2009 model year and available with new features, the new version of the Honda Element builds on its spacious and versatile SUV character with a more chiseled exterior appearance and a refreshed interior design. Three unique Element styles are available that range from the rugged and simple Element LX, to the more refined Element EX, to the sporty Element SC. Powered by a 2.4-liter i-VTEC(R) 4-cylinder engine, the Element is available with either a five-speed manual transmission (standard) or an available five-speed automatic transmission. The interior provides flexible seating for up to four people and their pet thanks to a cargo area that adapts to large items with flip-up rear seats that offer more than 64 seating positions by either folding flat, up and to the side, or removed altogether.
For 2009, all Elements incorporate significant exterior styling changes that include new front grille and bumper designs, restyled front fenders (now metal, previously composite material), a new hood design, squared wheel arches, and new headlight and taillight configurations. Interior enhancements include revised dashboard color combinations with titanium-look side linings, new fabric patterns, and enhanced switchgear designs and instrument panel meter graphics. The Element EX exclusively adds a new convertible center console with a removable cooler/storage box.
Whether or not you've got a dog, this model is definitely perfect for active users on the go!