Having earned its place in the American market by launching focused products at its biggest segments, Honda’s 2010 sales performance proved the danger of chasing niches. In his remarks at the North American International Auto Show, Honda’s John Mendel insisted that
sales of the sporty and stylish CR-Z are also exceeding our expectations with sales of more than 5-thousand vehicles in the first four months. It’s great to see our customers embrace this vehicle … and our effort to push hybrid technology in a sporty direction
but besides proving that expectations for the CR-Z were extremely low, it’s hard to see what he meant. Expectations for the 2012 Honda Civic, on the other hand, are considerably higher.
The 2011 Civic marks the first time Honda has allowed its compact sedan go into a sixth model-year, and facing renewed competition from Chevy, Hyundai and soon, Ford, Honda’s 2012 Civic will be tested as few Civics have been tested before. But in contrast to Ford’s arena-rocking global launch for its Focus (and family) earlier in a 12-hour day of press conferences, Honda’s first unveiling of the ’12 Civic’s exterior styling felt like a low-key affair.
And because this was technically a “Concept” launch, there were only a few details released about Honda’s ninth Civic. The short version: next Civic Hybrid will mark Honda’s first use of Lithium-ion battery technology, and Mendel even had special news for the natural gas fans out there, saying
There’s a lot of talk about advanced technologies for the environment … well … the Civic GX is darn near zero emissions like an electric car. And it’s here now … in fact, we’ve had it in the Civic lineup since 1998. Further, natural gas is a fuel in abundant supply in North America. And now, retail customers across the U.S. will be able to buy the GX as we expand sales from four states to nationwide.
Other than that, Honda is saving any surprises for the actual launch. After all, this is not actually the new Civic… this is just a Concept. A Concept that just happens to look exactly like the 2012 Honda Civic. Luckily, the sleekly-evolved design seems to have exceeded expectations among a number of observers at Cobo. Niche product stumbles don’t seem to have distracted Honda’s focus on its core products…. at least in terms of styling. And as long as the Civic remains an attractive, reliable, efficient offering, it will be up to its challengers to knock it off its well-earned pedestal. Now about that efficiency… when will Civic hit 40 MPG?