By on January 6, 2011

At least in the insular world of the automotive media, 2010 may well go down as “The Year Honda Lost Its Mojo.” The Motor Company’s first 2010 model-year launch, the Accord Crosstour failed to get off the ground last year, and the much-hyped CR-Z hybrid coupe launched to thoroughly mixed reviews. In fact, the new 2011 Odyssey seems to be Honda’s first big new launch in the US since the latest Accord debuted in 2008, although it’s not clear how many of the Oddy’s 10,147 December sales were leftover 2010 models. And after Acura’s 2009 model-year beak-ification, Honda’s luxury division launched only one new model, the ZDX, which sold a paltry 3,259 units last year. In short, Honda seems to have pulled off only one legitimate hit in its last five launches (including 2009′s Insight flop)… but unlike some other automakers, the big H isn’t dependent on novelty to move metal. Underneath Honda’s string of missteps are some fairly sound fundamentals… as well as signs that change needs to happen soon.

Why isn’t Honda dependent on its niche product launches to goose volume? That’s easy: Civic and Accord are a bedrock of volume for the Japanese automaker, and with strong growth in the compact crossover segment, the CR-V looks poised to join them as reliable sources of six-figure sales numbers. But even these core models are showing some signs of trouble. Honda claims Accord volume rose eight percent last year, but if you treat the Crosstour as a separate model, Accord volume actually fell 1.7%. And it’s no wonder Honda chooses to present the numbers that way: on its own, the Crosstour managed only 28,851 units last year.

The aging Civic saw a similarly flat year, with volume rising just .2% to 260,218 units. But again, Honda’s official reckoning is misleading, as it claims a .8% improvement (likely due to sales of 7,736 outgoing Civic Hybrid models). We’re used to this kind of number goosing from other automakers, but not Honda… and it underlines the fact that Honda knows 2010 was not a great year. And speaking of Civic Hybrid, the Insight that replaced it continues to be an unqualified disappointment, moving only 20,962 units, only 5,483 units more than the Civic Hybrid sold in 2009.

Luckily, Honda had a decent supporting cast of six-figure sellers in 2010, led by CR-V which moved 203,714 units last year, a 7.2% improvement over last year. Odyssey added 108,182 units, an 8.7% bump, and Pilot moved 102,323 units, a 22.8% improvement. Ridgeline and Element combined for just over 30k units. On the other hand, Fit fell 18.7% to 54,354 units and CR-Z sold only 5,249 examples. This meant that, as a whole, Honda-branded cars were down 1.3%, while Honda’s “light trucks” were up 16.5%. Still, Honda sold about 16k more cars than light trucks last year.

Acura also sold more cars than trucks in 2010… but the margin was only 129 units. TL sold 34,049 units, a 1.3% bump, while TSX sold 32,076, a 12% increase. RL continued to be a non-player at 2,037 units for the year, a six unit drop compared to 2009. MDX took Acura’s volume crown, moving 47,210 units, a 51.4% increase. RDX sold only 14,975 units, a 47.5% increase. As noted earlier, ZDX sold only 3,259 units and doesn’t seem to be gaining momentum: December sales were an anemic 253 units.

Taken together, it’s clear that Honda was ready to put 2010 behind them. With a new Civic launching next year, the firm is clearly hoping its core model sees a big enough bump to keep up with the market. After all, branching out into new segments certainly hasn’t been paying off of late for Honda. But there’s a (nearly unbelievable) silver lining to this raft of middling-to-bad news: Though the Honda brand lost .2% retail market share, Acura gained back the same amount, meaning that the firm’s overall retail market share stayed put at 12.9%. Honda may not be thriving, but (at least in the eyes of consumers) they’re surviving.

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75 Comments on “Year-End Sales Report: Honda...”


  • avatar
    wsn

    HMC is back to an all time high @ $39 (previously reached in 2007). In comparison, Toyota is at $81 vs. $137. GM is at $0 for those who bought the shares pre-crash. Honda was doing something very right.
    If the majority of the rants from TTAC are valid and supported by their owners’ actions, then we would see manual GTIs and M3s dominating market share. But wake up, it’s not that way. Honda came out of the recession stronger (in relative terms) than ever.
     

    • 0 avatar
      tonyola

      GM did extremely well in the late ’70s too – so well in fact that some people were talking anti-trust action. It didn’t matter (at least for a while) that the cars were becoming blander and duller with ever-poorer quality. GM was rolling in the dough and a 60% market share in the US was within sight. Then came the 1980s and beyond….
       
      Don’t kid yourself. It can happen to Honda.

    • 0 avatar
      hyundaivirgin

      WSN, both your points are off the mark. HMC by all means should have been able to take huge advantage of Toyota’s problems. It was a Toyota-Honda duopoly in the minds of people shopping for reliable transportation. Instead just as Toyota was in trouble, Honda decided to deploy its limited engineering resources to crank out the Insight, CRZ, Crosstour, and ugly Acura beaks. Of course by the time Toyotagate came along those vehicles were well into development so it wasn’t like Honda could have reacted, but the poor performance of those new products even after the Toyota scare is over shows they would have spent their engineering resources more productively on mid-cycle upgrades to the Accord and Civic (like 6-speed transmissions, direct injection engines, and something more than tacking an ugly chrome strip onto the Accord trunk). For HMC to only increase retail sales 8% when Hyundai-Kia increased 30% is a huge failure.
       
      Hyundai on the other hand introduced a new Tucson, Sonata, and Elantra, plus Kia introduced the Sportage, Optima, and Forte, making best-in-class in features and MPG and styiing in the most popular form factors of small CRV, midsize sedan, and compact sedan. As to your second point, we know Honda shouldn’t be pushing manual transmissions or rough rides if they want better sales. Hyundai-Kia shouldn’t have either, and didn’t. Instead the path to better sales is to build better everyday family transport, and Hyundai-Kia did that while Honda didn’t.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      For the record, GM shares closed today at $38.90. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t change he fact.

    • 0 avatar

      For the record, GM shares closed today at $38.90. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t change the fact.
      Who doesn’t want GM’s stock price up? I, for one, would be thrilled to see GM hit the magic number ($53/share as I recall) that lets the Treasury recoup its investment. Of course, that doesn’t mean TTAC is going to help inflate a stock bubble anytime soon…

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      Edward,
      Who is trying to drive up the price of GM stock and why would you bring that up anyways? I was just making the point that going out of the way to point out the value of pre-crash GM stock is silly and pointless. The fact of the matter is that GM has stock that is being trading and does have a value.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      tonyola,

      During the 1970s, imports went from 6.8% to 21.2% of the US market. Even if GM was still selling cars in the ’70s, they were making their last sales to hundreds of thousands of customers who they burned with cars that barely ran, were assembled by junkies, rusted immendiately, shed their paint, and had fundamental engineering failings. Characterizing the ugly Acura nose, the long Civic model cycle, or the flop of a couple of niche models as paralleling the complete garbage produced by GM in the ’70s and ’80s is absurd.

    • 0 avatar
      Norma

      “The aging Civic saw a similarly flat year, with volume rising just .2% to 260,218 units. But again, Honda’s official reckoning is misleading, as it claims a .8% improvement …”
      Ed,
      Hmmm, DSR, never heard of it? Surprise, surprise.
      May be it’s good to learn something everyday. Haha.
      When will TTAC reach its bottom?

  • avatar
    stryker1

    I dunno, the new Civic is going to have to be pretty special to recapture interest. At the moment, compared to it’s competition, it merely seems under-contented and overpriced.

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      I agree.  I think a good glimmer of hope was the admission from Honda leadership that they have lost their mojo in the early part of 2010, and a decision to delay the Civic (I’ve heard varying reasons why).

      Compared to Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Subaru, and Chevrolet the Civic needs a LOT.  It is better than the Corolla and I hope and pray that Honda doesn’t make the same gaffes that Toyota made on the 2011 Corolla refresh.  Always been a big fan of the Civic.

    • 0 avatar

      Am I the only one who remembers when Jap cars were over-contented and underpriced??

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      Yeah, when USDJPY was at 120 instead of 85..

    • 0 avatar
      Norma

      No. Probably when Yen was 360 for one dollar. Oh, those good old days in Tokyo ….

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    I am very worried about the new Civic.  I bought a 2007 Fit in the summer of 2006 when Honda was still Honda (or so we all thought).  Every launch since then has been either a minor or major disappointment, with the possible exception of the 07 CRV and the current Accord. 

    When the 09 Fit came out, it left me and my family cold.  Nothing since has really called my name.  What is strange is that the Japaneese domestic market has some fairly attractive cars, but we just don’t have them here.

    Hondas used to have personality and soul.  They did the simple things well.  They have gotten bigger, wierder, uglier, with lower quality (I am specifically thinking about the automatic transmission fiasco.)  When I bought the Fit, there was nothing else that I was even interested in.  If I were to buy a new vehicle now, I am not sure that any Honda would be at the top of my list.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      This sounds a lot like  my “Volkswagen Syndrome”. I started with an Mk2 Jetta, and when the Mk3 then Mk4 Jetta came out I hated them; too complicated and like you, they didn’t speak to me. Years later I folded and purchased Mk4 Golf TDI and am now driving a Mk4 Jetta TDI, but I’m kind of in the same position as I was in the mid to late 90′s; I don’t care for much of anything in the current Volkswagen lineup with the possible exception of the CC, and that has its limitations.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      The ‘automatic transmission fiasco’ was several years and at least one full generation of every model line ago. It primarily applied to V6 powered vehicles, and it only managed to bring their reliability down to average. People should  buy whatever they want, at least when it doesn’t cost taxpayers billions in subsidies and a bent NHTSA attacking better automakers, but Hondas are still an educated choice which won’t cause buyers any unexpected financial hardships come maintenance, trade in, insurance loss, or pretty much any other incident that can befall the owner of any make short of Honda or Toyota. The Acura styling theme was an unmitigated disaster, proving that Acura buyers had better vision than BMW buyers. Honda has been mining some non-existent niches, but maybe those niches will make more sense a year from now, when energy is a luxury good. The Civic, Accord, and CRV are all pretty deep in their model cycles, and they are the volume products in the US. If their replacements appeal to buyers, Honda will be looking pretty good for another few years. If they’re styled by some drama queen trying to establish a new design language, then maybe Honda will manage to put themselves in the sort of situation people who use the phrase wrong wheel drive wish they were in today. Time will tell.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      “People should buy whatever they want, at least when it doesn’t cost taxpayers billions in subsidies and a bent NHTSA attacking better automakers”

      CJinSD: Sorry, but I find comments like that absurd. I have mixed feelings about that whole fiasco two years ago and maybe GM and Chrysler should have gone into bankruptcy the “normal” way, but, perhaps it was in the government’s (and the nation’s) best interest as they saw it. I’m certainly not an apologist for anyone, especially big business, but right now, money makes the world go around, no matter what the “hippies” in power with their altruistic cloudy ideology think – and they’re changing their tune quite rapidly. So, I’m not slamming you, but there are things going on in the world that we, on our level may not see clearly, or at least have the whole picture. Hope that makes some sense.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      If I remember correctly Honda handled the automatic transmission issue in a way that few (if any) other manufacturers would; once they discovered the problem they addressed it in a fairly open and customer focused way, by replacing transmissions as whole units instead of nickle-and-diming the job.
       
      For the record I’m generally positive on Honda. I don’t recall ever hearing anyone complain about their Honda leaving them stranded on the side of the road. My wife had a 2000 Civic that we drove for a while before we got her something bigger. I took her car to the dealer for service a couple times and I had no complaints. The only problem it ever had to my recollection was that the volume knob on the radio stopped working. Other than that it was a trouble free appliance. But that was also how I felt about it. It was an appliance; nothing more, nothing less. My refrigerator is dead reliable, but that doesn’t mean I’m passionate about it.

    • 0 avatar

      Get used to it. Nothing Toyota has called my name since the ’85 model year. The whole Japanese auto industry has become as boring and stodgy as GM has been for 45 years…

    • 0 avatar
      jpcavanaugh

      CJinSD: the transmission fiasco is not so long ago as you think.  A friend’s 05 TL is on its third transmission.  The problem was suposedly fixed by 02, then by 04.  Spend some time on Odyssey forums and you will find people with transmission issues on 05s and even a few 06s as well.  Honda says it is now fixed, but time will tell.  You will also find a lot more owners than you think who say that this will be their last Ody. 
      Another friend has a 99 Ody sitting in a dealer lot with 145K because they cannot afford the $5k for a new tranny.  There are a lot of unhappy people out there because of this “old” issue that is, by the way, largely unfixable.  Contrast this with the forums for 1st Gen Ody owners where it is still one big lovefest because these were 300K cars – the kind of cars that Honda buyers came to take for granted. 

    • 0 avatar
      Norma

      @JPC, Yeah. How about a Ford Fiesta and pray every rear passenger you have are 4’11 or below.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Before I’d say anything negative, I’d have to see the CR & TrueDelta results for Hondas bought in 2010 and see if they’re any worse than their previous cars as far as “reliability” is concerned. Just because they don’t offer a lot of cars “enthusiasts” like doesn’t mean they’re not doing something right. I’m not an “enthusiast” as I think many would define the term, but I do have the benefit of years of experience and I do have a passion for certain cars, but admittedly, my area of interest is rather narrow. I do believe that some of HMC’s offerings have fallen short of the mark they aimed for, though, as stated in the article, so that does raise concerns if they have lost their way. Time will tell. Sometimes pushing an envelope may be an envelope too far and needs to be pulled back.

  • avatar
    william442

    I am not sure what has happened here. My 2010 Accord EX-L, 4, is a good ,but not a great car, and probably will not last the year. No reliability problems, but it sure is dull.
    The AMG now has new Pilot Sports, which may be affecting my opinion.

  • avatar
    Tosh

    It appeared to me that this year Honda/Acura would finally realize that they are on the brink of survival because they are making ugly and bloated vehicles that nobody publicly admits to liking, and that they would do something drastic (like hire an Italian stylist?). But now it turns out that the bread-and-butter models are selling OK, so why would Honda/Acura worry, right?!
    I’m on only my second Acura since 1992, but I haven’t seen anything tasteful since the first-gen TSX….

  • avatar
    BillyBoB

    Some time back , I’d say 10 years ago , Honda adopted a new  corporate plan. Making money is  #1 , always had been , but now it was make money at all costs , in all sectors , all the time.  They started living off their reputation and for  a while it worked, and some would say it still is working. But new ideas from Honda are clearly mis guided , innovation seemed tilted more and more towards  lowering costs and raising profits. They purposely starved Acura with UGLY product , and feel the way  to compete with Toyota was NOT to build a better car , but build a cheaper car (Prius vs. Insight)  Now , the ghost of Roger Smith may be invading their thoughts as they begin to move numbers and dates around to make their case  and justify their mis steps. People are willing to pay more if they get more , but resent paying more for less and less. Will Hyundai be the New Honda? 

  • avatar
    slance66

    If you subtract the beaks, the new TL and TSX were very solid cars.  The TL has other styling issues, but  has decent bones.  I almost bought the current gen TSX, it’s just a very capable car with a nice personality.
    I suspect we’ll see the next Accord be downsized for the first time.  I think next year’s Civic may be as well.  Honda VTEC fours have always been a hoot, but the automatic transmissions absolutely have to join this century with 6 speeds and the cars need to regain that solid, nimble driving feel that won so many fans.  That means less weight, shorter wheelbases, and tighter packages.  We’ll see.  I have to believe Honda knows that this is the future.
     

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      For the money (north of $30K if you add any option at all) I strongly disagree that the TSX is a “solid” car.  For just $1K more for a 2011 4-banger TSX you can have a brand new Infiniti G37 instead.  Game, set and match, and when you’re talking $29.5K versus $30.5K you’re not talking a big jump to have a lot more car.  The TSX is a Honda Accord for the rest of the world, and the rest of the world gets better engine choices too.

    • 0 avatar
      PartsUnknown

      Holden, for the record, a base G37 starts at 35,050.  I think you are referring to the G25, which starts at 30,950.  The G25 is a nice piece, but it has a much smaller engine (2.5l, 218hp) than the G37 and much less content.  Comparing apples to apples, the 4cyl TSX, which starts at $29,600, has much better standard content (sunroof, dual climate, heated seats, etc.) than the relatively stripped base G25.  The only option on the TSX is the Tech package (Nav, real time traffic, etc.) Basically, you get much more car in the TSX.  In that context, it is a solid offering.

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      @PartsUnknown

      Thanks – and curse you Infiniti and your squashing together of your cars as G-series starting at $… and then I admittedly ass-u-me-ing that G meant G37, surely their marketing weasels wouldn’t want to suck in the casual observer!

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      By better engine choices I guess you mean the option of a diesel. The TSX has a better gas engine than is available in the European Accord. Looking at the Honda UK site, the most powerful gas engine is a 2 liter with 154 hp. The diesel is a good diesel, but it still isn’t as quick as the US 2.4 gas engine, and operating costs on diesels offset much of the fuel economy savings here when it comes to passenger cars. Our TSX automatic gets 34 mpg on the highway, real world average over several tanks of gas. It has been incredibly cheap to maintain over 6 years and still has some resale value if there were any reason to sell it. I have friends with G35s that are about as old, and they feel like used NYC taxicabs compared to our every first generation TSX I’ve been in.

    • 0 avatar
      Norma

      And I think one has to spend big bucks on a G25 with NAVI: $40k!

  • avatar
    zigpenguin

    I have a 1996 Honda Civic that rocks. Fun, cheap, reliable, efficient, and pretty good looking. If Honda can reach back and grab some of that awesomeness and mix it with better safety etc, the next Civic could be a rock star. Bring back the double-wishbone suspension. Cut some weight. Don’t style it to death.
     
    But my hopes are most likely going to be dashed. I’m thinking about the Civic as it was, which is a mistake. The Civic is a different car from what it was.

  • avatar
    geeber

    The new Odyssey is supposedly a big hit. The concept car that shows the direction of the next-generation Civic debuts next week at the Detroit Auto Show. Based on the spy photos I’ve seen, the car’s styling won’t represent a major break from the current generation, which is a good thing, in my opinion.

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    Honda claims to be rethinking the place of Acura, and making it a premium brand rather than a luxury brand (basically retreating from the competition with Lexus and others), and that might require a serious rethinking of the Honda brand as well.  I know the 2011 CSX in Canada is already being priced about $3,000 less than the 2010 model.

    • 0 avatar
      thebeelzebubtrigger

      Acura has become Honda’s Oldsmobile, but without the illustrious history.
      The fit is the only bright spot I see in the Honda U.S. lineup, everything else is so roly-poly and bland.

      @TTAC:
      BTW, what’s up with your site administrators, don’t they do any testing? I’m normally not a big ad blocker, but I’ve finally given in and disabled ads and javascript for this site (I reenabled JS just to edit this post), because otherwise it really takes forever to load. That can’t be good for your bottom line…

  • avatar
    BMWfan

    The new Accord interior looks cheap in my opinion. I have owned many Honda and Acura cars over the years, and just can not understand the direction this company is going. If they don’t clean up the mess soon, I will not be buying another one.

    • 0 avatar
      PartsUnknown

      I have a 2010 Accord, and you are sort of correct.  After living with it for 8 months, the interior is a mixed bag.  Great steering wheel, expensive looking headliner, great control interfaces (wiper stalks, etc. have great feel), superb gauges, generally flawless fit and finish.  The not so great: horrendously cheap floor mats that are already worn through, cheap feeling seat fabric, poor interior lighting, not even a basic trunk lid liner, and 1980′s-era radio displays.  This is my first Honda, and I really like it, but I expected more based on the company’s rep.

    • 0 avatar
      BMWfan

      APartsUnknown,

      I have had many Accords, with my first being a 1983. If you had the late 90′s early 2000′s interior in your current car you would not want to part with it under any circumstances. You are not alone though. I just cant understand why manufacturers take the area of the car that the customer sees constantly and cheapens it up so much. I am all about saving cash, but I would gladly pay an additional $500 for a nice interior. With traffic getting worse all the time, we spend a lot of seat time in there. Good luck!

    • 0 avatar
      Advo

      I don’t like how lots of the cloth interiors of cars look like. The ones in Toyotas don’t look like they’ll wear well. Hyundais and especially Kias seemed especially cheap quality compared to others (I haven`t seen the latest models).
       
      Surprisingly, Ford Fusions have the cloth material I`d want to buy. They aren`t the fluffy type and have a tight-weave nylon that I feel will last the longest and still look acceptably decent.

  • avatar
    roverv8i

    You said the Accord was down 1.7% if you take out the crosstour numbers.  What I wonder is how many crosstour buyers would have bought an Accord if the crosstour did not exist?  I’m sure some wanted the hatch regardless and may have went with a Venza, but I bet many just wanted an Accord with more utility.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    Honda – I love their 4 cylinder engines as opposed to the design studio that provides the packaging.
     
    God bless them for still rolling out the Accord coupe.  This year we got the CrossTour.  I’d rather seen them add a rear hatch to the two door Accord.  My guess is the post Toyota Venza design committee won out.
     
    Also, you no longer get a three pedal, row your own gear shift option of the CR-V.
     
     

    • 0 avatar
      Philosophil

      I don’t understand why they have to start the CrossTour at such a high price point. It must be aimed at a very narrow demographic, and I find it strange that they wouldn’t offer a base model in something like that (with better fuel consumption ratings as well).

    • 0 avatar
      Norma

      @Phil, I heard that it’s coming, it’s coming. Just wait a few more months.

  • avatar
    jaje

    I have several qualms about Honda but my major gripe is how they are now making appliances.  I see this b/c of Honda’s major push to make hybrids mainstream.  Even in the best circumstances hybrids only account for 1% of overall sales (car/truck/SUV) but must command substantially more in R&D.  Toyota does much better at this but the billions Honda has spent on its IMA and hybrid platforms is embarrassing as their system is still known as a mild hybrid.  While Honda’s eye is on hybrids, it is also using its engineers to work on a VLJ (which they have yet to sell or produce), 1g & 2g fuel cell cars that you can count annual sales with your phalanges, several versions of a humanoid robot (which is also not for sale), and many, many other dare I say it…”distractions”.  As the business / economics side of me is going crazy…I see little to no return on investment from these activities.
     
    Evidence of Honda’s fall from competition is the fact that fleet wide Hyundai allegedly is now the #1 CAFE rated automaker, Honda’s products return average fuel economy to their competition, Honda’s quality ratings have maintained levels with some hiccups here and there but the competition including the Koreans and Detroit has caught up, etc.  Honda’s legendary engine making prowess is no longer there as their engines are average, and Honda’s fallen behind in regards to smaller displacement engines using forced induction to replace heavy larger engines, adding diesel options (Honda gave up on the TSX diesel b/c w/ auto it wouldn’t meet EPA…Soichiro would have made it happen), developing more efficient and powerful engines using direct injection, displacement on demand, more advanced valve / cam timing, variable displacement technology, and had their cars styled not to polarize them to a love it / hate it (latter is the majority) but to be slightly conservative to last.
     
    The Honda I remember had brilliant engineers who were rotated into Honda’s many racing programs and given major money to make incremental improvements which trickled down to their products (that engineer was then rotated back to work on the Accord / Civic engine and all of a sudden Honda’s production engines were world beaters).  Unfortunately, I see Honda giving up on its roots of motorsports as its foundation for making excellent cars (a tenet that consumed and drove its founder to makes Honda the admiration of the world).  Now with Honda spending its focus on non auto related and research that is more bound to the science lab – its engineers and its products are losing that passion to create a car (and now some motorcycles) with a soul.

    • 0 avatar
      aspade

      “Evidence of Honda’s fall from competition is the fact that fleet wide Hyundai allegedly is now the #1 CAFE rated automaker, Honda’s products return average fuel economy to their competition”
       
      All the CAFE average suggests is what a trip to any Hyundai/Kia dealer will confirm: Hyundai doesn’t sell big vehicles.
       
      Moving 210,000 Pilots and Odysseys at upwards of 30K a piece was Honda’s brightest spot this year.  Sure that isn’t sustainable into the $5 (and $7, and $10) per gallon future but without revenue to get through today that future doesn’t matter.

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      Honda’s saving grace right now is they sell the great majority of their vehicles to retail customers and have one of the lowest incentive plans of the big automakers.  Hyundai also sells a bunch of crossovers and they have corporate v8s.  The divide will grow further as the new Elantra gets 40 mpg highway and low 30′s city, the upcoming Accent and Veloster should also make these gains as well.
       
      Honda’s just sat on its laurels for so long getting distracted in all sorts of different directions.  Unfortunately in today’s competitive global economy – if you are not always moving forward – you are falling behind.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      I get the impression that Honda has always made appliances, just that some (CVCC) were quirkly next to the other appliances of the day while others (NSX, Civic Si, perhaps the Integra/RSX) were a little more exciting. I guess there are worse things than having the reputation for being an appliance, since that (to me at least) it means reliability to the point of not having to think about it. Whether that is a good thing in and of itself is an entirely different matter.

    • 0 avatar
      Pedro 2020

      @JJ, where is the new Elantra that’ll get ’40 mpg highway and low 30′s city’ you mentioned?
      What have you smoked?

    • 0 avatar
      Pedro 2020

      ” I see this b/c of Honda’s major push to make hybrids mainstream.  Even in the best circumstances hybrids only account for 1% of overall sales …”
      Hmm, In the U.S. Honda sold about 34,000 hybrids, more than double your ‘guesstimate’. (Mind you, that only include four months’ sales of CR-Z – granted, CR-Z is not planned to be a volume selling model, but it is likely to sell 12,000 to 15,000 in twelve months -> 34,000 + 15,000 -5,000 sales of CR-Z in 2010 = 44,000 -> more than triple your ‘guesstimate.)
       

    • 0 avatar
      Pedro 2020

      Honda just introduced Fit hybrid in Japan and about 40% sales of Fit is expected to be hybrid model. Fit is Honda’s best selling model in Japan and the second best selling car overall in Japan. I think Honda is going to introduce Fit hybrid in the European market this year.
      The next generation Civic hybrid is coming. Only time will tell how many will be sold. (Oil price is a wild card – national ave. gas price is over $3 psychological barrier now.)

  • avatar
    suspekt

    There is nothing wrong at Honda.

    They have been genius at amortizing their tooling costs (engines/platforms) over an unbelievable life span. What bothers people, and what is ironic, is that they are not taking the low road and offering products that are out of line with their core beliefs. Think LED eyeliner headlights, direct injection, forced induction, etc…

    As I have said before, they were so far ahead of the engineering curve on their engines/platforms a decade go, they were able to make continous improvements at relatively low cost to their products. What we are seeing in the past 2-4 years is that they have INTENTIONALLY allowed themselves to be caught up to on several fronts. Not because they couldnt keep ahead of the curve, but because it wouldnt have made smart business sense to spend massive dollars on new technology that wouldnt have paid them back in market share. They are among a small group of companies that had this luxury. I firmly believe that they did not piss away opportunity, but rather invested their R&D dollars on things congruent with their longer term core vision. This was a gamble in the sense that maybe they timed certain future events wrong (FCX Clartity related tech) and this might have cost them in the sense that others are now able to pursue the same technoloy at lower cost with no impact to timing of market delivery.

    My favourite example is the J series family of V6 engines. Generally panned for their lack of torque, the truth is, they behave more similar to a free spinning rotary then a twisting VQ. The slighlty modified (bolt ons, no internal changes) J32A2 in my current vehicle is at or very very near 100hp/litre… NO DIRECT INJECTION, NO DOUBLE OVERHEAD CAMS, NO FORCED INDUCTION, NO VANOS…  210,000 miles of seriously hard abuse, and without a shred of hyperbole, the thing runs like a watch. HOW MANY 100HP/LITRE ENGINES ARE OUT THERE THAT CAN SAY THIS? It was factory rated at 81.25hp/litre by the way.

    Now for Hyundai and Ford…
    They are doing what they had to. They are doing what also makes smart business sense. We live in an age where the shiniest newest thing is what gets consumer attention. Both Ford and Hyundai have smartly seized the moment and came out swining with product that was invested HEAVILY with R&D dollars and the investments are paying off.

    Honda didnt have to this nor would it have made sense for Honda to have spend an extra $100,000,000 getting a 7 speed tranny behind 375hp 3.7L motor.

    In the case of Hyandai, their most recent efforts are far more political then anyone is saying or realizes. What is unfolding in North/South Korea as we speak is no small coincedence with the timing of their latest product onslaught. Further, the pricing strategy compared to the enormous sums that were expended in their latest generation of product is very suspicious to me. I digress on this point…

    I really truly wonder how much reverse engineering has gone on with respect to some of Honda and Toyota’s technology, especially with respect to both of their engine families. It is amazing how many 305hp V6 engines are suddenly available…

    I applaud Honda even though I am personally frustrated with their lack of recent innovation. It doesnt mean they are not with the times, it means that they carry a unique mantle of expecation with customers that many people are unfairly judging them on. Yes, they are not producing competitive product relative to what they have in the past, but relative to the current market of cars, they are right in the mix as they have intended to do so.

    • 0 avatar
      Advo

      We`ll see if Honda will be able to keep up with their competitors with their newest offerings like the upcoming Civic. It may not be as important in the U.S. market, but they`ve certainly lost out to Toyota technology and it`s number-one selling Prius in Japan.
       
      The Hyundai conglomerate has the resources, talent, and recent success to risk expansion with a product they believe in. That they can`t keep up with demand for their U.S. assembled product proves that they know what they`re doing as a business entity. True they`ve had to use cheaper pricing to break into the industry, but they may have reached a point where their design and perceived quality and reliability allow them to raise profit margins nearer to the competition.
       
      I fail to see why you`d bring up the political situation. I can imagine, but you aren`t specific and it looks like just a continuation of steady Korean expansion of exports and technology.

  • avatar

    So, what is going on with Fit? When I tested it, Fit looked like a terrific vehicle. If I were on a budget, I would’ve gotten it. There was a recall for faulty electric window switches, but that seems like a minor issue. I am missing something here, but what? It cannot be just KIA.

  • avatar
    Rday

    I have pretty much been a Toyota fan for many years. In 05 I purchased an 06 Ridgeline before it really became available. It has been a good vehicle until recently. Just last summer with 32K on the Odometer, it developed a power steering hose leak. The dealer put a new clamp on it and it worked for a while. Just a few weeks ago I noticed it really started leaking again. This time the dealer told me that the hose needed to be replaced and it would cost me $750. I naturally balked at this and suggested that they contact HOnda to get me an adjustment. The dealer did and honda compromised with a $175 charge for the work. It turns out that to replace a power steering hose they have to removed half of the ‘frame’ under the engine which is the reason for the high cost. I have found that compared to Toyotas, the honda needs much more frequent and costly maintenance charges. Based upon what I have seen on the Ridge, I will most likely go back to Toyota whenever I need another truck type vehicle. Hondas are just to costly to own from a maintenance point. They make some really nice products but who wants to have to get to know the dealer personnel on a first name basis. When this happens, it is time for me to find another brand of vehicle. A good vehicle should require very infrequent dealer service calls. My Prius’ major tuneup interval was 120K. That should be the case for all modern vehicles, IMO.

    • 0 avatar

      Quit whining and learn (if your smart enough) how to work on your own vehicles!

    • 0 avatar
      SV

      @Dave: you’re not your
       
      @Rday: In fairness to Honda, all brands have the occasional bad apple no matter how good their reputation is; it sounds like you got one of the weaker ones. Toyota hasn’t been flawless when it comes to their trucks either; if memory serves both the Tacoma and Tundra have had rust problems, for example.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Note to GM fanboys: TTAC just did a gloomy article on Honda. Just so you know.
     
    Honda is falling into the same bin as Toyota,  fairly boring cars with a fan base of loyal buyers. I’ve not been impressed with the interiors,  bells and whistles are one thing but that digital speedo up high on the civic is too much.
    the Acura just came out in a wagon. If they bring back the accord wagon they might have something.

  • avatar
    zznalg

    I’ve owned about 40 vehicles in the past few decades. Of these, two Hondas: an original CRX -which was tons of fun; and an Acura RSX which was my most lamented vehicle purchase. Severe turbo-lag coupled with an erratic and often non-responsive automatic transmission (particularly regarding downshifts) resulted in ridiculously unreliable and unpredictable power delivery. This combined with one of the worst ride-handling compromises I have ever experienced (rough ride) resulted in my “worst-car-ever” honor. Only if Honda comes closer to the CRX side of the equation versus the RSX, would I consider another HMC purchase.

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      The only Honda sold in the US with a factory turbo’d engine is the RDX mini-ute.  Honda has never sold a Turbo on an RSX so that has nothing to do with the company but the poor installation job done by some hack shop or weekend mechanic I’d assume.  Fitting a turbo on an automatic car is asking for problems b/c it often overwhelms the transmission where in a manual car it is much easier to beef up the clutch to compensate.

  • avatar
    anchke

    Connecticut towns levy a property tax on cars, so frugal residents tend to hang on to oldies but goodies, particularly the Honda and Toyota brands. Many of these older cars show that lovely patina of use accompanied by regular maintenance.  I often catch myself admiring the functional design, sensible size and quality of these older vehicles. To my eye, a 10- or 15-year-old Honda or Toyota sedan is far more appealing than its swollen later iteration.

  • avatar
    tparkit

    I’m a Honda owner (still have a delightful ’91 Accord), but I’ve felt compelled to post a couple of anti-Honda rants on the pages of TTAC.

    What’s wrong? Speaking from experience, I detect all the outward signs of an ossified, careerist, collegial, second-rate leadership team:

    - products developed by bean-counters (Insight).

    - looking for easy growth in niche markets (CR-Z… a chick car pure and simple), instead of facing up to the personal and corporate risks of fighting it out in primary markets.

    - difference for the sake of difference (Acura styling), a sign intellectually-limited people are calling the shots.

    - sloth, a sure signal that an I’ve-got-mine-Jack clique is confident it can dispose of inside challengers. (Letting the promising Element concept rot, and then discontinuing it.)

    - failure to react to failures, further evidence of a clique that protect its members and has made an art form of wilful ignorance.

    In short, nothing will change at Honda until the teams at the top change. Rest assured they aren’t about to fire themselves.

    ———-

    Changing subjects, a few posts above Pete wonders why the Fit hasn’t taken off. Good question, since it leapfrogged the market in terms of features and technology. The tall roof, ease of getting in & out, and the versitile interior are real plusses over the long haul.

    My own sense is that the Fit is a car for people who have woken up to the reality that personal needs and financial resources should be taken into account when shopping for transportation. In North America, we aren’t there yet. Despite the ongoing depression, we’re still collectively in a free-lunch, credit-spending mindset. This coming year or two, however, is when US state and local governments will be forced to confront their vast budget and pension deficits. There will be economic hell to pay when the stimulus provided by the state/local flow of borrowed money slows down. I expect that’s when a generation of Fit buyers will begin to discover themselves.

    • 0 avatar
      0menu0

      “Changing subjects, a few posts above Pete wonders why the Fit hasn’t taken off. Good question, since it leapfrogged the market in terms of features and technology. The tall roof, ease of getting in & out, and the versitile interior are real plusses over the long haul.
      My own sense is that the Fit is a car for people who have woken up to the reality that personal needs and financial resources should be taken into account when shopping for transportation. In North America, we aren’t there yet. Despite the ongoing depression, we’re still collectively in a free-lunch, credit-spending mindset. This coming year or two, however, is when US state and local governments will be forced to confront their vast budget and pension deficits. There will be economic hell to pay when the stimulus provided by the state/local flow of borrowed money slows down. I expect that’s when a generation of Fit buyers will begin to discover themselves.”
       
      I think the Versa is why more Fits aren’t seen on the roads

    • 0 avatar
      Advo

      I find that an interesting observation. What are the primary markets and where can Honda find growth other than in niche areas?
       
      Honda is already doing well in their core lineup. It would be suicidal to enter the U.S. big pickup market. With the trend of auto companies slimming down their product offerings, they wouldn`t find it a good time to match toyota and their 6 SUVs/crossovers (is the FJ still around? I`m probably missing something). Competing for market share by offering bigger discounts probably wouldn`t work, either.
       
      It almost seems as if Hyundai has a better formula for growth by offering two styles or flavors of basically the same vehicle, like the old GM used to excel at. More variety to cover more people`s different tastes.
       
      I also wonder if the CRZ was really designed with North America in mind. Sure they can point out the older CRX`s somewhat success, but they probably realize it`s a niche vehicle now.
       

    • 0 avatar
      tparkit

      ADVO replies: “I find that an interesting observation. What are the primary markets and where can Honda find growth other than in niche areas?”

      The luxury market is one glaring example. Another is the absence of driver’s cars, a profitable segment Honda has ceded at the upper end to the likes of BMW, and at the affordable end to numerous competitors. Today, there is no such thing as a nifty Honda.

      Then there’s (for instance) the market for quality, compelling interiors. There’s nothing Audi-esque, or even VW-esque, about any Honda. Looked around the inside of a new Accord? It could only have been designed by people who think none of that matters. And don’t get me started on the dashboard buttons, or the me-too exterior…

      Components matter too, and the lack of 6-speed automatics in many models not only hurts gas mileage, it suggests Honda is trying to foist out-of-date technology on the buyer.

      Honda won’t improve until it is forced to. Of course, it may not, and the future of the company could resemble what happened to Acura. If Honda continues on as is, Hyundai will pick its bones.

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    I dunno. I used to think that Honda was a brand that the older you got, the more you appreciated Honda’s sensible designs, reliability and good value. But I’ve found the reverse to be true. In my younger years I really liked Honda/Acura’s little hot hatches with great engines and sharp handling, but now I’m in my late 20′s I can honestly say that there is only one vehicle in Honda’s car lineup which interests me in the slightest – the Fit.
    Looking at the rest of Honda’s car range I keep getting the feeling that I’d be spending a lot of money and not getting much for it. My entirely subjective personal opinion of Honda’s car range:
    -Fit: Well thought out little car with lots of practical space inside.
    -Civic: Feels like it’s getting long in the tooth and is a bit bloated and dull compared to its predecessors. I know it will have good resale and will probably never break down, but the design doesn’t inspire.
    -Accord: Severely dull looking with *apparently* plenty of reliability issues if you read the forums. Even the coupe feels outclassed by cheaper competitors which offer a V6, 50% more BHP and RWD.
    -CRZ: I haven’t even seen one on the road yet, let alone in a dealership – besides what is the point of buying a slow and not very fuel efficient sports hybrid?
    -Crosstour: An Accord with a weight problem and an ugly UGLY ass.

    • 0 avatar
      iutodd32

      The Accord coupe is offered with a V-6. 271 hp. What competitor is cheaper and offers (does the math of, apparently, 50% more hp) 400 hp?

      And it looks good too.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    Honda really needs to be “VW with build quality and decent dealerships”.
    Where’s the direct-injection motors, turbos and 6+ gear DSGs?  Where’s the proper hybrid choices for each model (especially Odyssey)?  Did you blow _all_ your R&D on the FCX Clarity??
    Soichiro must be spinning in his grave.
    And yes, unions or no, I think closing the Gold Wing plant in Ohio is a shucking fame.  Not holding my breath on whether they can shuck 200lbs and compete with the new Beemer inline 6s..
    Honda, please leapfrog the rest of the world and start implementing interesting tech again, whether it be licensing Ecomotors’ engine or building a proper plugin serial hybrid with a microturbine genset.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      “Where’s the direct-injection motors, turbos and 6+ gear DSGs?”
       
      Probably in Honda’s R&D labs until they can make them consistently reliable – unlike VW, which just foists undeveloped technology onto consumers and lets the end user be the final stage of R&D.

    • 0 avatar
      iutodd32

      Interesting that you’re looking for Honda to compete with BMW.

      I do agree that Honda has always been a world leader in engines and now, maybe, they are starting to get passed by some competitors in that regards.

      It terms of six cylinder engines, the J series, which is Honda’s main (I think maybe only) six cylinder engine line, was first introduced in 1996. Which was 15 years ago. And it is just now starting to get passed by competitors (although the 20/30 rating of the v-6 Accord is best in class, as is the 6at Odyssey at 19/28). The K-Series has also been around for almost ten years, with similar comparisons to the rest of the industry in terms of efficiency and power.

      And Honda is overhauling their entire engine lineup starting with the 2012 Civic and CRV. Look for brand new engines, displacements, better power, better fuel economy…all of that.

  • avatar
    ronin

    Honda plays funny games with features, and that tends to irk people.

    First year Pilots you could not get a sunroof- can’t step on MDX toes.  Today you can actually get bluetooth in a Pilot- just opt for the very top of the line Touring model.  Remote start?  Only dealer installed, but you carry the extra fob and the car shuts off when you unlock the doors (I have heard).  Six-speed auto?  Can’t step on MDX toes.  But your 05 EX-L Pilot came with two (2) CD players in the dash.
    The new Odyssey with the lightning bolt profile- want anything but the 5 speed auto?  Need to go for the very top of the line model.  Audio bluetooth?  Not sure, can’t find mention yet.
    To get competitive features, Honda forces you to go top of the line or do without.  And that’s what I call irksome.  It has to be enough to drive some people away.
     

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Here’s my final comment on this thread: We own a 2002 CR-V bought new. Also a 2004 Impala, also bought new. We are maintaining both vehicles by the book – exactly. So far, both have a couple of niggling issues: the passenger temp control light on the Impala has gone out. The climate selector control light on the CR-V has also gone out. On both cars the entire control must be replaced. We elect not to do this, as it doesn’t affect functionality. The CR-V had a sensor on the transmission go out. Cost to fix: somewhere around $150 two years ago. Interior materials scratch easily, cloth upholstery shows burnished wear, but no holes. CR-V has almost 90K miles, and the front end (AWD) needs to be checked out next oil change. The Impala (75K miles) has rear brake rotors that easily warp. Chevy fixed under warranty, twice. I did the last ones, need to do it again. Everything else is what I expected. Interior in good shape. Both cars have had brake jobs and tires. That’s about it, but we’re older than the normal age on this site, I think, and the older you get, your driving habits change. I drive the Impala, my wife drives the CR-V, for what it’s worth. We also own an MX-5 for fun. All our cars are registered on TrueDelta, too. My consensus on this is: The Honda and Chevy are pretty much equal right now. Which car will last longer? I’ll let you know.

  • avatar
    iutodd32

    The Civic, in terms of DSR, did raise up by .8 percent. There were 306 selling days in 2010, as compared to 308 selling days in 2009. If you would read the whole report you’d understand that Honda is not “goosing” the numbers.

    Also, you fail to mention that overall Acura sales as a whole were up 27 percent, they sold almost 28,000 more units this year than last year. I mention this mainly because in all the other ‘year end sales report’ articles you mention specific percentages. You also don’t mention in this article how Honda attracted more retail buyers this year than last year (I had to read another article, to read that Honda’s percentage rose – or did it stay the same? The numbers between articles don’t seem to match up.). Nor do you mention how Honda typically has the lowest rental/fleet sales of any brand. But hey, you made fun of Acura’s exterior styling!


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