By on November 16, 2010

The Wall Street Journal [sub] reports that, after selling a mere 9,000 units last year, the Honda Civic will be retired from the Japanese market. For perspective, the Civic sold 609,000 units worldwide last year. According to the report

Sales of the Civic in Japan reached their largest annual volume of 177,000 vehicles in 1975, accounting for 71% of the company’s overall domestic sales that year.

What happened to the Civic? For one thing, it got bigger… and Japan didn’t. The 2011 Civic is 32 inches longer than the big-in-Japan 1975 model and weighs nearly twice as much (1,495 lbs in 1975, 2,630-2,830 lbs today). And by the looks of things (above), the forthcoming Civic refresh isn’t going to bring a whole lot to the table either, besides a corporate grille. There’s been a lot of chatter of late about Honda and its loss of “mojo”… the fact that the Civic has lost relevance in the Japanese market shows just how far Honda has come from its roots. No wonder a little mojo was lost along the way.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

43 Comments on “Honda Civic: Too Big In Japan?...”


  • avatar
    TEXN3

    I definitely agree that the current Civic is rather large, I’d consider one over the Accord as a family sedan (our wagon is our main vehicle). It’s an obvious trend for all the Asian companies, both Honda and Toyota made the change to American-specific midsizers in 97-98 and the compacts have followed in increased size (but for the world market). Oh well.

    I actually prefer our 98 TL and 07 Outback because they were designed for Asian markets as well, and are a little more narrow than American designed TL/Accords and Legacys/Outbacks. A carseat and booster take up much of the backseat(s) right now anyways, so I could care less about the middle rear seat.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Cue the comments about how everything is bloated and terrible and, oh why can’t we get cars like the 1975/1985/1996 Civic anymore, it must be the gubmint!
     
    Meanwhile, the Fit/Jazz and all it’s variants sell perfectly well and embody all the virtues of Civics past while being wholly better cars.  I suppose you could pry the “Fit” badge and stick a “Civic” one on there if the nameplate bothers you so much.

  • avatar
    stryker1

    Man, that’s a really unflattering picture.

  • avatar
    akcaptruth

    There’s been a lot of chatter of late about Honda and its loss of “mojo”
     
    Could we get a noted, reliable source here… or does the “truth” about cars
    rely mostly on anecdote?

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      Define noted and reliable please.
       

    • 0 avatar
      lawmonkey

      I’d refer you to the CR-Z and Crosstour reviews

    • 0 avatar
      imag

      I’m happy to chatter about it right now for you:
       
      Honda has completely lost its way.  They used to be one of my favorite car companies.  The Gen 3-5 Civics were as close to perfect cars as cars come.  They were fun to drive, held tons of crap, and dead reliable, with great gas mileage.
       
      The NSX was one of the great cars of all time.  Honda, being Honda, built a Porsche beating car and then let it whither on the vine, wondering why people didn’t buy it.  Somehow they didn’t realize that being Porsche requires updates and *time*.  You have to keep at a car, not just make one great model.
       
      Then Honda did it again with the S2K.  They made a brilliant car, truly one of the great cars of all time, and then let it get passed by with one lousy update.
       
      And the Integra – look at what they turned that into.  And the TL.
       
      Honda used to be the best engine-builder in the world.  Now they don’t even have direct injection.  Mazda, Ford, and Hyundai are making them look like fools.  All they have to show for it is a me-too Prius and a CRV that gets worse gas mileage and is less fun to drive than their old VX Civic (remember that one?).
       
      Honda needs their own version of Akio Toyoda at the helm, someone who has a vision of what made the company great, and the leadership to bring it back.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    It’s a bit sad that you don’t get the ‘proper’ civic over there, the Euro-version is a lot better looking at least, and quite a few inches shorter (as a hatchback).

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      It also has a much less sophisticated rear suspension.
       
      The famed Euro Civic hatch is more of a squashed Fit with a bigger engine.  You’re right that it’s more interesting looking, though.

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      For a Honda product the Euro Civic looks like garbage and as stated it uses a low budget torsion beam rear suspension that is similar to Fit/Jazz.
       
      Speaking of bloat, does Honda even sell its 4,300 lb Pilot at home in Japan?

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Speaking of bloat, does Honda even sell its 4,300 lb Pilot at home in Japan?

      They don’t sell the Zest or Vamos in North America, either.  Can you really blame them for playing to the crowd?

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      The US and JDM shared the Civic sedan with its lighter weight, better chassis rigidity, and more sophisticated and expensive multilink IRS. The euro Civic Type-R also lacks the helical LSD that makes the US Civic Si and JDM Civic Type-RR handle so well. The Euro Civics do have more of a video game dashboard and bigger diameter wheels though, for people who like toys and don’t understand unsprung weight.

  • avatar
    LXbuilder

    Have never owned a foreign car nor will I, but Honda was always the “import” automaker that I admired  …not so much these days as it seems Honda’s mojo now resides with the Korean automakers.

  • avatar
    Bancho

    From the pic, it looks like the new Civic will be a mild refresh of the existing one (unless there’a a lot more happening beneath the sheetmetal).

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Generally speaking, Honda and Toyota keep the same basic platforms for seven to ten years and do a major redesign midway through the cycle.  The current Civic is good for another four, while the Corolla and Camry are due up very soon.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      There is a lot more happening beneath the sheetmetal – although not apparent at first glance.
       
      I say this only from having seen and dealt with some of the tooling. Can’t say any more than that.

    • 0 avatar
      Bancho

      The Civic is becoming less competitive given how much the competition has improved. I’m not sure they can stick it out another 4 years without a full redesign.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      I’m glad that Honda is making this car an evolution of the current one. This gives it more styling continuity, which improves brand identity. My beef with the current Accord is that it was such a drastic change from the 2003-07 generation, which was an attractive car. I would have preferred that the current model evolve from the previous one.

  • avatar
    ringomon

     
    The upcoming new Civic will be smaller than the car it is replacing.  
    When the new Civic was delayed, many commentators said it seemed that Honda was reacting to the perceived quality of the new Focus and Cruize which had a lot of press flying around- and went back to the drawing board.  
    My guess on what really happened is that Honda had plans for an even bigger Civic- then gas shot up to $4/ gallon and everybody started trying to get rid of their land yachts and buy small commuter cars (How long did that last?).   This decision was made a good year before the time it reached the public.  Development takes time-especially on a bread and butter model.  Anyways- long story short- the new car should be smaller (or at least not bigger) than the outgoing model (which itself is basically as big as the late 90’s, early 00’s Accords.)
     
    And after all, Civic is just a name.  Honda may or may not be losing it’s mojo, but Civic sales in Japan don’t necessarily prove it- the Japanese car market has just moved on to the true successor of the Civics of yore size-wise, which aren’t called Civic’s anymore.  

  • avatar
    akcaptruth

    “define noted and reliable please”
     
    These words are both in… er… the dictionary.
     
    As is “anecdote.”
     
    Maybe the site should be renamed:
    “The Truthiness About Cars”
     

    • 0 avatar
      AaronH

      Seriously? You did not even understand his question? Seriously?

      Thanks to public school and TV, America have permantly lost it’s Mojo…It has become a corrupt banana republic of moronic government-loving runts and parasites.

      Who care about the Japanese car market…It is a pointless and irrelevent market today.

  • avatar
    obbop

    The Disgruntled One owned and drove a bought-used from a doctor 1975 Civic CVCC with a 5-speed and, in the glove box, a notebook showing every gas purchase for the prior 3-plus years, price paid and average-over-time gas mileage. Interesting but boring.
     
    Eventually, the passenger seat back removed, rear seat back folded down and a 3/4-inch hunk of plywood cut to fit from the firewall to the rearmost part of rear interior.
    Home sweet home!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Reliable critter. 13-inch tires if memory is correct. Tranny shifted oh-so smoothly.
    Neat little nipple at the top-most portion of the engine allowing one to “burp” the coolant to remove all air that remained from a flush.
    Not existing within the rust belt kept that demon at bay.
    A fine conveyance for the then-smooth roads of northern California.
    A broken valve and lack of funds for repair led to its eventual departure aboard the metal scrap ship back to its homeland.
     

  • avatar
    HoldenSSVSE

    First Toyota and now Honda appears to be getting lost deeper and deeper in the woods.  Argh!

    The Fit is a great litle car for what it is, but the competition is attacking from all sides, *cough* Hyundai *cough* *cough* Kia *cough* Ford – Win

    The Civic has bloated up so darn big and does not compete with the curent Cruze, won’t compete with the coming Elantra, and Ford Focus,  It needs a lot more than a reskin to compete – Fail

    The Accord has bloated out to a fullsize car and the looks have gotten somewhat questionable.  It remains a solid value in the class, and Honda still offers a wide range of models with a manual versus a slushbox, but Ford, General Motors, Nissan and Hyundai are all over this class, and all four manufacturers are growing share to the detriment of Honda and Toyota – Weak

    Crosstour.  Apparently Honda found the design team that brought you the Pontiac Aztek and gave them a job designing the Crosstour and other Honda products.  An answer to a question no one really asked, and a butt ugly 5-door when Honda use to make very handsome wagons – Epic Fail

    CR-V.  Win, but vehicles like the Equinox from Chevrolet and the Tuscon from Hyundai are gaining huge traction.  GM could sell more Equinoxes if they could build them faster.  Interior has fallen behind.  Threatened

    Ridgeline.  Slice it, dice it, cut it anyway you want.  This is a sales flop.  There were some clever design ideas (in bed storage) that wasn’t well executed (that freezes shut in the wintertime if any water gets between the gasket and the top lip of the well).  Honda should give up.

    Pilot.  Woefully behind in its category.  Again, Hyundai, but also Toyota with the Highlander, GM Lambada platform, and the Ford Edge.

    Insight.  Epic FAIL.  ’nuff said.

    CR-Z.  A bloated, low performing hommage to the original CRX.  The styling is so right, the current driveline is oh so wrong.  Where is the Si version?  Where Honda, WHERE!

    Acura.  The whole product line up also appears to have been designed by those fired Pontiac Aztek engineers.  They apparently had been up all night snorting eight balls while watching Highlander over and over again with their can opener/knight shield styled grilles.  The TSX is no replacement for the hallowed Integra.  No RWD in the line up while almost every other luxury maker offers some RWD combo.  Generally blah and not a sports car to be found.

    Honda has definitely lost its mojo.  And at a really bad time with Ford getting it right, GM clearly on an upswing and Hyundai/Kia on an absolute tear.  Nisan is gaining more mindshare from the “I buy Japanese” crowd and Toyota is face down in the mud, where there was a great chance to gain share, they are losing it.

    Weak Honda.  Super, super weak.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      A couple points:
      One, you missed the Odyssey.
      Two, the current Civic is at the end of it’s product cycle and, despite that, is still a very good compact car.  Let’s see the new one before we bury Caesar.
      Three, the Accord is actually a really good car.  Enthusiast are really tilting at windmills: it’s roomy, it’s sporty(ish, for a car it’s size), it can be had with a stick and it’s light.  About the only problem with it is that it’s noisy, but every Honda is noisy.
       
      I’ll agree that Acura has serious product/brand issues, but Honda’s marketing problems, like Toyota’s quality are more blogosphere meme than actuality if you look at objective reviews.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      Can’t entirely agree with this assessment.

      The Fit is a great litle car for what it is, but the competition is attacking from all sides, *cough* Hyundai *cough* *cough* Kia *cough* Ford – Win

      Except that almost every comparison test I’ve seen places the Fit first. It’s still a great little car. If you want style at the expense of room and flexibility, buy the Fiesta. If you want maximum room and flexibility in a tidy package, buy the Fit. Honda is still one of the leaders in this segment.

      The Civic has bloated up so darn big and does not compete with the curent Cruze, won’t compete with the coming Elantra, and Ford Focus,  It needs a lot more than a reskin to compete – Fail

      Can’t buy it. The Focus and Cruze have, if anything, UPSIZED to fight the Civic. The Civic still looks modern and is a class leader in virtually every respect. The Cruze may have caught up with the CURRENT Civic, but a new one is expected next year.

      The Accord has bloated out to a fullsize car and the looks have gotten somewhat questionable.  It remains a solid value in the class, and Honda still offers a wide range of models with a manual versus a slushbox, but Ford, General Motors, Nissan and Hyundai are all over this class, and all four manufacturers are growing share to the detriment of Honda and Toyota – Weak

      This car is still the class leader, if we go buy RETAIL sales. It’s true that Ford, GM and Hyundai are catching up, but “catching up” and “being ahead” are two different things, and no one is ahead of Honda yet.

      Crosstour.  Apparently Honda found the design team that brought you the Pontiac Aztek and gave them a job designing the Crosstour and other Honda products.  An answer to a question no one really asked, and a butt ugly 5-door when Honda use to make very handsome wagons – Epic Fail

      Agree. This is a royal stinker in looks (although reviewers have consistently said that it drives very well). A neighbor has one, and it looks awful. But he seems to like the way it drives.

      CR-V.  Win, but vehicles like the Equinox from Chevrolet and the Tuscon from Hyundai are gaining huge traction.  GM could sell more Equinoxes if they could build them faster.  Interior has fallen behind.  Threatened

      Agree.

      Ridgeline.  Slice it, dice it, cut it anyway you want.  This is a sales flop.  There were some clever design ideas (in bed storage) that wasn’t well executed (that freezes shut in the wintertime if any water gets between the gasket and the top lip of the well).  Honda should give up.

      I give Honda credit here. A full-throttle, direct assault on the F-150 and Silverado would have been prohibitively expensive and not necessarily resulted in Honda stealing sales away from GM and Ford. Honda would have had to design and engineer an all-new, body-on-frame vehicle equipped with a series of V-8s, and then constructed a new factory to build it.

      The Silverado and F-150 are excellent vehicles. If Honda entered this market directly, it wouldn’t be the Vega and Pinto against the 1973 Civic again, and Honda realizes this.

      Toyota has spent billions tooling up for an all-new, competitive Tundra, and sales are still peanuts compared to the class leaders. Toyota is a much larger company than Honda, and can afford to dig in and spend lots of money until it gains a solid foothold in this segment. Even Nissan’s much-ballyhooed Titan has faltered badly.

      The Ridgeline is different, and appeals to people who want something different from a typical pickup. Given future CAFE requirements, I have the feeling that more trucks may pick up some of the Ridgeline design and engineering features.

      Pilot.  Woefully behind in its category.  Again, Hyundai, but also Toyota with the Highlander, GM Lambada platform, and the Ford Edge.

      Not seeing this. The vehicle is hardly a beauty queen, but in performance, capabilty and quality it matches or exceeds anything in its class.

      Insight.  Epic FAIL.  ’nuff said.

      Agree. How Honda squandered its initial lead in hybrids is a disgrace.

      CR-Z.  A bloated, low performing hommage to the original CRX.  The styling is so right, the current driveline is oh so wrong.  Where is the Si version?  Where Honda, WHERE!

      Agree. A bizarre car that tries to be a sporty coupe and hybrid, and ends up doing neither well.

      Acura.  The whole product line up also appears to have been designed by those fired Pontiac Aztek engineers.  They apparently had been up all night snorting eight balls while watching Highlander over and over again with their can opener/knight shield styled grilles.  The TSX is no replacement for the hallowed Integra.  No RWD in the line up while almost every other luxury maker offers some RWD combo.  Generally blah and not a sports car to be found.

      Sort of agree..the new grille is not attractive on the TL, but it is certainly acceptable on the TSX, RDX and MDX. All of those vehicles are competitive in performance. The problem is that Honda must decide what Acura is going to be – will it emphasis performance or luxury? And the build quality has to improve if Acura wants to play in the higher leagues. The vehicles still show too much of their Honda roots in this regard.

    • 0 avatar
      Bimmer

      psar,
       
      have you seen a new Odyssey in black!? It looks like a hearse!

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    I’ve owned 7 civics ranging from 1986 to 1997, and just drove a 2010 last week (Alamo rental, didn’t know anybody actually rented out Hondas).  Very nice, but it’s bigger than the 80s Accords and I would consider getting one if I was in the market for that size of car.  A completely different car from my 1997 Civic LX, mostly in a good way.

    So if you’re looking at a Camcord-sized car, go drive the new Civic.  And unlike some of the Toyotas, it has the speedometer where it belongs, in front of the driver.

    • 0 avatar
      chris724

      The goofy digital speedometer was the one thing I didn’t like about the Civic I test drove back in ’09. The car was perfect for me in every other way. I hope they fix that with this refresh.
       

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    Honda started to lose their ‘mojo’ with the Accord ‘CB’ launched in 1990 (allthough the 2nd best looking Accord after the 1st gen. coupes) , and ironically (if I recall right) was the best selling US built sedan in the US for years. I owned a 1990 model (mine was built in Japan though), and it still had a great engine and steering and slick gearshifts, but it felt (and was) a lot heavier than the previous generation, not to mention it had adapted typical American features like flat wide seats… The Civic lasted a few years after the Accord before falling into the same trap. Just another reason why I don’t like many cars built since 1990…
    Edit: I kinda like the Fit/Jazz though because it’s quite basic, and doesn’t ‘over-do’ the interior in a german way.

  • avatar
    ctowne

    The Fit is a fantastic vehicle. It’s a veritable swiss army knife of utility, is wonderfully cheap to own/operate, and is a lot of fun to drive on curvy roads. Eager engine, even if it’s light on power, it’s adequate, and considering that the Fit isn’t a sports car, it acquits itself very well on the highways and byways.

    The new Odyssey is also quite interesting. Considering how much i don’t like the other vans on the market, it seems like a solid bet to do well also.

  • avatar

    the only problem with the fit is that it’s plug ugly.
    I second and third what others have said about acura dropping the integer. if they still made it, I’d buy it.

  • avatar
    Demetri

    We need to clarify that it’s only the sedan model of the Civic that is being dropped in Japan.  They’re still going to sell a hatchback.

  • avatar
    changsta

    I think that Honda’s are generally very competitive, but they have lost the qualities that used to make Hondas stand out in the past. It is inexcusable for Hyundai’s and Ford’s to have technology in their 4-cylinder engines that Honda does not offer. Honda used to be a leader in introducing new technologies, and now, they are simply following.
    The increased bloat with their vehicles is also of concern, and I would argue that the only vehicle in the line up that has escaped this is the CR-V. It still only offers a 4-cylinder engine and is relatively small for the class, but makes great use of the available room.
    If Honda wants to succeed, they need to figure out a cohesive (and ATTRACTIVE) design language, invest in engine development, and add more sound deadening to their cars! The cars on the market right now are noticeably louder than their competitors, and can become tiring on long highway drives.
     
     


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India