A onetime race-car engine designer, Honda President NOBUHIKO KAWAMOTO, 61, has the Japanese auto maker barreling down the fast lane. His small sport utilities are a hit, and profits, boosted by restructuring and a weak yen, should swell to a record $1.97 billion for '97. In November, Honda nudged ahead of Nissan to become Japan's No.2 carmaker. In the U.S., the all-new '98 Honda Accord battled it out for Car of the Year with Toyota's Camry.

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