By on January 2, 2012

Honda had been, on these pages and elsewhere,  accused of perpetrating vehicular boredom. At the Tokyo Motor Show, Honda even admitted its sins: “Frankly speaking we think that in the past few years the cars have been a bit boring,” creative director of Honda’s styling design development division Yoshinori Asahi told the Sidney Morning Herald.

A remorseful Honda president Takanobu Ito now tells The Nikkei [sub] that the criticism was warranted and that things will change. First, however, Ito denies responsibility for the flagrant boredom, using the trite and true “I just followed orders” defense:

“We divided the world into six regions, and Honda’s regional operations were each responsible for their respective regions. Whenever we planned a product for the global market, our thinking was that we needed to listen to each regional supervisor. So our development staff was just taking orders. When you harmonize all the different opinions, you end up with a safe, boring car.”

Nonetheless, matters will change for the better, Ito swears on a stack of non-existing Shinto-bibles:

“We will work on highly distinctive vehicles that are solid in environmental friendliness and safety. This strategy will be represented by our effort to make vehicles more sporty. Through such moves, we will stimulate not just the market, but our company as well. When I took charge of Honda’s automobile operations in April 2011, I had three corporate officers each supervise luxury, midsize and small vehicles. Putting more authority in their hands, I asked them to create more competitive autos and to speed up coordination with product planning and regional operations. I set up a structure that would allow them to take the lead in realizing the wishes of the development team. The fruits of these moves will begin to appear in the market next fiscal year.”

Stocks of makers of tranquilizers dropped on the news, but recovered later in the trading session.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

81 Comments on “Honda Announces End Of Boredom...”


  • avatar
    Spartan

    I hear them talking, but I’ll wait for the results. I’m not sure Honda quite understands the definition of exciting anymore since they got all caught up making snooze-mobiles for the past 10 years.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      Yes, I am in the wait and see camp. They may just hit the snooze button and roll over.

      I only find 2 vehicles in their lineup that are somewhat interesting or attractive or breaks the rules: Honda Civic SI and the Acura TSX Sport Wagon.

      As for tech, their SH-AWD is cool, but never had the same impact when they introduced VTEC 20 years ago.

      Absolutely, profits are a key measure of success. But cars also carry threads of fashion and embody elements of tech. Style matters. And profits and style are not mutually exclusive (I’m thinking Apple).

      • 0 avatar
        MrIncognito

        The SH-AWD could have a major impact, but it has never been paired with an entertaining chassis. The TL is really fast through corners, but it’s completely betrayed by the numb steering and otherwise anesthetic quality of the car.

        The new Si is a step backwards too. It’s faster than the previous model, but they killed the character of the car. I personally don’t care much for the rev-happy character of the previous version, but it had character. The new Si is a civic with a bit more motor.

      • 0 avatar
        WriterParty.com

        When I used to work at a Subaru/VW dealership, I remember driving a used (2004) Acura TL and attempting to take it on a few hard corners. The steering was so horribly arcade-like and uncommunicative that a couple times I thought the car was going to break loose and kill me on curves that the Audi A4 FWD, Passat and Legacy handled very, easily (and comparing it to the entire Impreza line, as well as smaller VWs, makes for a VERY unfair comparison). Excellent interior and excellent engine noise, but the impression I got from the handling was that its driving characteristics make for a much better Lexus ES competitor as opposed to … well, anything with true sporty intentions.

      • 0 avatar
        Kevin Kluttz

        Hondas are supposed to be rev-happy.

      • 0 avatar
        acuraandy

        @WriterParty: must’ve had s*** tires.

      • 0 avatar
        WriterParty.com

        @Acuraandy: At no point did the tires actually break loose, as far as I can recall, but it bodyrolled like a drunk hippo, and it didn’t feel like the steering wheel and the tires were really talking to each other, so to speak. Maybe it was a suspension issue, but that would surprise me in a car that was only a few years old at the time (I worked there in 2006).

      • 0 avatar
        dreadnought

        @WriterParty.com

        Your experience is the same as mine in both of the Honda/Acura products I’ve driven. The steering is numb and sloppy. Very disappointing to me.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        A couple buddies and I test drove a mint CPO ’07 TL a couple years ago at an Acura dealership. The suspension was so bad that it immediately killed any interest we had in the car. Floaty and poorly controlled, but not even soft and comfortable. We took a CPO ’08 TSX for a drive immediately after and I could tell before we even got out of the parking lot that it was vastly superior in that regard. The Legend, 1.6EL, Vigor, and first-gen TSX are all very enjoyable to drive.

      • 0 avatar

        I remember Karl Brauer from Edmunds.com compared new (latest model) Honda Accord with 3-series BMW http://blogs.edmunds.com/karl/2007/10/2008-honda-accord-ex-coupe-a-big-boaty-3-series.html. Well, after driving scarily numb European Accord (which supposedly has to be even more BMW-like) I thought – can I trust Edmunds.com, was it a paid advertisement, did Honda bribe Karl? I actually do not know what to think about it. I do not read Edmunds anymore since discovered TTAC, but still. So do not let anyone to brainwash you, keep open mind when shopping. Karl may admire Accord but it does not mean you will too.

      • 0 avatar
        VanillaDude

        Hondas are not boring. It is just that it has satiated it’s market to a degree that most folks find them completely common.

        Hondas are common, not boring. They just bore you because you don’t want a common car.

        The Industry has plateaued a bit. By 1953, buyers wanted fad cars and they got a boatload of car fads. By 1969, it plateaued again and we got the fads that dominated the Malaise Era. Another plateauing seems to have happened during the 1990s and we got plastic ground effects, spoilers and other silly fads.

        Honda succeeded because it didn’t follow fads. But now it is common, and being common is often seen as being boring. Civics looked uniquely purposeful in 1980 when the common small vehicles were rear drive Pintos, Vegas, Datsuns and Corollas. Now Civics are not seen at all because they have become common.

        Honda can do the same. It can take the common Civic and customize some uncommon elements into it to generate new interest. Buyers know that the Hondas are reliable. So, they will eat up a reliable Honda that reflects their latest fad.

        Honda needs to expand their current line to include Civic and Accord spin offs reflecting the latest auto fads.

    • 0 avatar
      Spartan

      I knew it there was a downhill slope en route once the Prelude, RSX, CL, NSX, and S2000 were all euthanized.

      Then again, there were signs of excitement mismanagement when they gave us that bubble hatch Civic Si back in the early 2000s. What a disaster that was.

      • 0 avatar
        Russcar

        I rather liked the hatchback. Practical yet sporty and a European flavor. Too bad we can’t get the current Euro hatchback version.

      • 0 avatar
        fvfvsix

        Truth be told though, the RSX was a “phoned in” effort. The integras that preceded them stood out quite a bit better when compared to their contemperaries.

      • 0 avatar
        acuraandy

        @fvfvsix: after the RSX was intro’d in US/Canada, it was still the Honda Integra everywhere else.

        They haven\';0t been built in almost 6 years and we still get people coming into our dealership asking us when the ‘new’ one will be released.

        Look at ebay, craigslist, CarSoup, etc. There is a reason they still hold their value.

        Something tells me ILX won’t be as successful. Yet, I might get one anyway :)

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    And that is just styling. HMC has not introduced dual clutch auto transmissions, direct injection, a line of turbos pumping up displacement and fuel economy.

    Honda is soon to follow Saab if they are left behind by the Koreans bringing up the bottom.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      I certainly wouldn’t say it’s nearly that bad. They may have lost some street cred with enthusiasts, but we all know how many cars those enthusiasts buy per year. The current Civic has received a decent amount of bad press, and certainly didn’t light up the sales charts (along with several of their other recent niche products; perhaps this was the situation that finally got their attention), but – at least in the US – their sales have been pretty strong. Maybe not much growth, but certainly not an apocolypse.

      • 0 avatar
        PenguinBoy

        Citation sales were pretty good in 1981 too – people will buy brands they have had good experiences with in the past, until they don’t.

        Honda used to have leading edge powertrain technology, with excellent reliability and durability. Now they have middle of the road technology, with the occasional automatic transmission failure. Even if non enthusiasts don’t know or care what VTEC is, they still notice things like “peppy acceleration with great fuel economy”.

        Nothing Honda (or any manufacturer…) currently makes is Citation bad, but it’s not hard to imagine current Civic buyers considering a Focus, Cruze, or Elantra next time around.

        It will also be interesting to see how the Chinese FIt is received here in Canada. Up until now, Honda has always been a safe choice because they have made such good cars for so long. It will be interesting to see if people considering a Fit will hear that it is now made in China and compare with alternatives such as the Fiesta or Accent. The Chinese made Fit may well be as good as the Japanese built model – but people may conclude that the Chinese Fit is “noisy and tinny” compared to a Fiesta. Sometimes an ounce of perception is worth a pound of performance.

        In short, even though Honda’s sales are strong today (Civic is still the number one seller in Canada, IIRC), I don’t see them holding this position forever if they keep going on their current path.

      • 0 avatar
        Dynamic88

        +1

      • 0 avatar

        According to CR Honda and Acura transmissions are bulletproof for like last 8 years.

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        Honda is No. 1, passing Toyota, in recalls in 2011. Sounds like the consumer is on top of things this time.

        http://www.autoblog.com/2012/01/10/airbag-recall-forces-honda-past-toyota-in-total-recalls-for-2012/

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      Honda have already announced the direct-injection engines that will be replacing their current mainstay engines over the next two or three years. They’re not going the dual-clutch route, though … they’re going CVT whole hog. Therein could lie the seeds of the next big failure …

  • avatar
    I've got a Jaaaaag

    I was just following orders, I am not now nor have ever been a member of the beige party, I had no knowledge of the plan to destroy exciting cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Kluttz

      I’ve got a much more dependable Honda. To heck with your Jag. It will break down. Lots of people own Mercury Sables, anyway. You’re no different, just arrogant. No one cares. You really are arrogant.

  • avatar
    PenguinBoy

    “…our development staff was just taking orders. When you harmonize all the different opinions, you end up with a safe, boring car.”

    Sounds a lot like the sort of thinking that was going on at the old GM. In order to develop an interesting product, you need someone with a vision of what an interesting product looks like in a position to influence the development. I can’t imagine the current Civic would have been released if Soichiro Honda was still running the show.

    This sort of “we were just taking orders” design by committee almost sounds like something from “Car Guys vs. the Bean Counters” – perhaps Honda should see if Maximum Bob is available for another consulting gig ;)

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    I won’t say their cars didn’t look boring so much though I was not a fan of their looks but it’s obvious that their driving dynamics fell off a cliff at some point.

    When I drove the 2010 Fit with automatic, it sucked, not sporty at all and it was not helped by a 1-2 Sec delay before downshifting when I decided to stomp on it. The automatic in the Fiesta was MUCH quicker to respond to my commands so it one out there and WAS a much more involving vehicle than the Fit ever could be.

    That said, they made the mistake of bringing out the Element (of which I kind of liked) but saddled it with so, so economy and no further development and then dropping it unceremoniously without a suitable replacement.

    I miss the fun days of driving around in my ’83 Civic with all of 67HP out of a 1500cc CVCC motor and a nice shifting 5spd manual but sadly, if the Fit was any indication, they sure did loose their mojo in that dept. The new Fiat 500 comes very close to what that old Civic provided in fun driving dynamics.

    • 0 avatar
      WriterParty.com

      +1. Having driven a good number of late-80s and early-90s Hondas (Civic, Accord, Integra), they practically humiliated the competition. Civics and Accords had interior space that belied their size, handled like much more expensive cars, great build quality, and were just plain fun to drive for what they were. Can’t say the same thing about current Hondas. The closest thing I’ve found has been the Ford lineup, but it’s just not to the same degree.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I just hope that “distinct” dosen’t mean “So disgusting that only a few individuals will enjoy it”, like the Nissan Juke.

  • avatar
    340-4

    …TSX Sport Wagon?!

    (checking)

    ….with only a 5-speed automatic?

    (facepalm)

    …$36,000?

    Sigh.

    Honda in general confuses me. The more they excel at hitting the target in the middle (not dead-center, the boring, homogenized middle), the less they feel like the Honda of old.

    And every time I see a line of Tafetta white cars with tan interiors, part of me dies inside.

    • 0 avatar
      vbofw

      Here we go again. “Euro car guy” loves the idea of a manual tranny wagon with a sport suspension, but there are only 1,000 of these guys that will actually buy the cars, versus the 100,000 who say they’d love to buy one.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        The issue is with having an automatic with only five speeds. These days, an automatic with 6-8 speeds is common in the near luxury class.

        Not long ago, a four-speed automatic was considered to be leading edge. Today, it’s hopelessly antiquated. In a segment that competes on features, five speeds aren’t enough.

      • 0 avatar
        Herm

        Cant wait until someone sticks a fake 10 speed gate on a CVT, and then proudly announce a 10 speed transmission. Some will fall for it.

      • 0 avatar
        05lgt

        Whatever. Still driving my Japanese branded US assembled manual tranny wagon with a sport suspension. If it get’s totaled tomorrow I’m hosed on replacement options.

      • 0 avatar
        340-4

        Here we go again.

        “Presumptuous responder guy” reads something into a post that clearly wasn’t stated.

        A 5 speed automatic is outdated. In this class, for Acura, I would expect a 6 speed automatic. Shouldn’t they be at least on par or one step ahead of the curve? I would think so, particularly for that price.

        A manual would be great, but not cost effective to offer considering the projected low sales.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      A bigger omission for me in the TSX wagon is the lack of the V6. With the four cylinder, you’ve got Corolla acceleration in a $30k+ luxury wagon.

      • 0 avatar
        acuraandy

        Rumor ’round the campfire has it the TSX will die in favor of the ILX, for better or worse. (I would contend worse, TSX is a VERY good car)

        We haven’t had in a new Sport Wagon in probably 4-5 months.

        I want one, you want one, but there simply isn’t a business case for them in USDM.

        Most people who are able to drop $30k+ on a car (who needs/wants the space) would simply buy a CUV (CR-V, RDX, X3, RAV-4, Escape, Equinox/Terrain -ick!- etc.).

        Modern wagons (estates?) are popular in Europe (especially) due to the fact they do not qualify as CUVs/SUVs (for taxation purposes).

        US Americans like sedans. BIG, GAS-GUZZLING, sedans (see 08-Present USDM Accord). Weather or not we can afford them soon rests on the impending election.

      • 0 avatar
        WheelMcCoy

        @acuraandy

        >> Rumor ’round the campfire has it the TSX will die in favor of the ILX

        Say it ain’t so! But yes, I’ve heard those rumors too. But then I don’t understand what will happen to the TSX Wagon. Will that die too? Acura just brought it over in 2011! Or will it become an ILX Wagon? Or perhaps become a Honda Accord Wagon?? …which is what it is in Europe.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      @340-4
      >>>
      …TSX Sport Wagon?!
      (checking)

      ….with only a 5-speed automatic?

      And every time I see a line of Tafetta white cars with tan interiors, part of me dies inside.
      <<<

      There, there (patting shoulder).

      Acura deserves kudos for taking a chance and bringing the wagon to American shores. And I can't blame them for providing only ATX on it. Their target sales was 4000 for the year, but I think in reality, it might have been less than that. For MTX, the take rate in America is 10% overall and that's optimistic. So 10% of 4000 would be only 400 MTX wagons, at best!

      So our fellow American ATX drivers are partially to blame. But I also blame us enthusiasts — the snotty ones at least… the ones who derisively say Camcords. We should encourage drivers to learn stick and love their cars, not put them down for their choices.

      Anyone who has been insulted by a French waiter or a Linux Sysadmin knows what I mean. :)

  • avatar
    spyked

    I don’t think Honda’s problem was relating to BORING. It’s mostly related to UGLY. And watch, now that they have the Acura line-up solid and attractive (TSX, TL, and MDX now actually look good, should have looked that way in 2009), they will replace them with whatever this new “sporty” look is going to be.

    The Fit is fine, IMO. The Civic and Accord aren’t boring….just awkward and sorta ugly. Accord especially from the rear….Pontiac from the mid-90s. And Civic is just so awkward. It really is like they have six different department heads in charge and that’s why the cars end up looking so fragmented.

    They should study Ford and VW if they must, but keep the cars looking conservative with sporty trim if wanted, as optional. “Sporty” can easily equal “tacky” or “cheap” – don’t force it on us.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      +1000! Ugly, not boring, is the main problem. Even the names of their core product, Civic and Accord, are deliberately non-offensive. What these cars used to have was non-offensive styling that aged well, efficient use of interior space, fairly high quality material and parts that last a decade before wearing out, relatively advanced engines, high resale value, and loyal fans who customize Honda’s boring blank canvas into something more interesting. Cost cutting and styling stupidity have destroyed the “can’t go wrong buying a Honda” value proposition.

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    Honda knows how to do it right. The accord I owned was one of the best cars I ever owned. And many Hondas have not been boring- the Element, and Del Sol were not. They just need to take some inspiration from their motorcycle designers.

  • avatar
    Dan

    A Civic certainly shouldn’t be so boring. Or a Fit.

    But Honda’s bread and butter do just fine with boring as a standard feature. The market isn’t crying for a stiffer Accord with twitchy steering. Let alone an Odyssey or CR-V.

    Not interested in the end of boring. How about the end of 5 speed transmissions and SOHC V6 engines without independent valve timing?

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Jaeger

      True, there is certainly a market for boring and boring is more or less working for them at the moment.

      But Honda built their market share with not just reliable cars, but also interesting ones with leading edge engineering. The early Accords weren’t just more reliable than the Tempos or Topazes of the day – they delivered better performance, handling and fuel economy at the same time.

      Now you get dated technology in a boring, bloated package. Sure, it’s still reliable. But even that advantage has been narrowed to being more of a statistical artifact than a real difference in ownership experience for the typical driver.

      And they could at least bring back something like a Prelude.

  • avatar
    Sundowner

    Honda could turn this around now that they have admitted the almost unforgivable stubbornness that brought them here. They could very, very quickly announce that they are back in action by taking that TSX wagon – a car that was supposed to make waves – and make it a ballzer contender with just a little work: put the turbo 4 from the RDX in it, with a STICK SHIFT, and some AWD would be a plus, too. Yes, I know it won’t tell tons, but it will send the the right message to the enthusiasts, same as Caddy did with the CTS wagon. Street cred may not sell a lot of cars to enthusiasts – at first – but a few young people driving around in these things will convince the soccer moms and nascar dads.

    and fix the damnable nose already!!

  • avatar
    stryker1

    “We will work on highly distinctive vehicles that are solid in environmental friendliness and safety.”

    Whoa there, killer. I don’t think I can handle all this excitement.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    I think Honda has been struggling a lot with trying to keep their ‘green’ image, while trying to keep up with customers demands. They try to make small, efficient engines, but the customers have demanded more of the ‘concrete pillow’ rides that Germans have offered for decades. And they have become part of the ‘establishment’ as they grew bigger. They are no longer a small growing competitor, so they are afraid of taking chances. As for the multishifting’ snobbery, I hope they can still stay with 6 speed manuals and 5 speed Autos (or even better, CVT’s) because anything else (including doubleclutch boxes) is plain silly and in-efficient, like the christmas decorations on the front corners of modern German cars. (call them headlights as much as you want, they still aren’t)
    One reason they struggle in Europe is because they don’t have enough engines to choose from, any European buyer hates the Accord (TSX to you) for not being available with a 115hp 1.5, or even better a 109 hp diesel, just so they can keep up appearances while not paying for as much gas or taxes as their neighbor with the current entry level 156 hp 2.0 litre. I guess the same Golf buyers would love to get the Cicic with a 1.2 litre 110hp engine too.
    And they should just cut off most Acura models, and the Ridgeline, completely, and rather re-introduce a Prelude, and for once try to make an actual utility vehicle, just to learn how they work (they have a great base in the CR’V, just ditch the 4wd , rear seats, and the huge engine)
    And stiffen up the CR-Z a bit, and ditch any sound insulation left in it, that’s what the enthusiasts want anyway ;)
    Just got to stop the rant now, I probably forgot half of what I was going to write anyway…

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      I think part of the reason Honda does so poorly in Europe is they are a bit pricey for what they are – Honda tries to position the Accord (TSX) as a 3 Series alternative, when it should really be competing with the Mondeo et. al.

      Mainstream Honda’s are also seen as a bit boring, Top Gear called the Accord (TSX) ‘A car for very old people to drive very slowly. Why does it have more than two gears?’
      (source: http://www.topgear.com/uk/honda/accord/verdict)

      In North America, Honda’s sell well because they are perceived as reliable (and usually are, except sometimes), but that isn’t as big of a selling point in Europe where even German cars are considered reliable.

    • 0 avatar
      alluster

      “And they should just cut off most Acura models”

      Agreed. Kill the RDX and ZDX. The RL is redundant and can go too. Redesign the TSX. Kill the current TL and bring back the old design.

      I am no Honda fan, but the last gen TL IMO is one of the best looking 4 doors,. The current gen is an atrocity that should be taken into the woods and shot. I am basing my opinion on exterior looks alone, which is my most import criteria to buy a car.

      The all time best looking 4 door cars ever made IMO are dead. The G8, Aura, and last gen TL.

      Honda can deny all they want, but they have major problems ahead, most beyond their control. The talk of “three laps ahead” is childish smack talk.

      The yen is too strong and squeezing margins. To make up for the losses incurred exporting to the US, they cheapened the Civic overestimating customer loyalty. They were hoping people would not cross shop like when they didn’t do in the past. This strategy has backfired on them. To say they underestimated how competitive the new Elantra, Cruze and Focus would get is BS. Every company worth its salt keeps tabs on the competitors. Honda must be pissed that they had to spend decades building a quality reputation, the slow and hard way, while the Chevy comes out guns blaring and takes them out so easily within a year.

      The second problem : Every one of their new model or redesign has failed to catch on or has been a sales disaster. The CRZ, Crosstour, Insight, ZDX, Ridgeline and RL sell in such low numbers that there is no reason to keep them anymore.

      Third: ATP. Honda used to command one of the highest transaction prices in each of the segment. Within one year, its now at the bottom of the barrel, with only Toyota having an ATP lower than them. When the Elantra has a higher ATP than the civic, you have a problem.

      Fourth: Ugly. I maybe biased against Honda, but I wonder how many people really like the new Honda designs? The CR-V is one of the ugliest car ever. They managed to top that with the new alien head one!! What must be going through a persons mind to walk into a dealer and say “I will pay for that”

      Fifth : Vulnerability. 60% of Honda ad Acura sales combined come from 3 models. The Civic, Accord and CR-V. These three segments are becoming the most competitive segments if not already. A resurgent Hyundai/Kia and Det 3 in these segments are putting a lot of pressure on Honda. With VW and Dodge entering the fray, Honda will be subject to a lot of pain.

      • 0 avatar
        alluster

        all that said…I admire Honda for several reasons . Their pricing discipline is unmatched. Plus, Honda has always been the one mainstream automaker rarely pushing sales to fleets. These two aspects are going to be heavily tested in the next few years though. With 35,000 a month plant capacity Civic selling 16,000 a month and 40,000 Plant capacity Accords doing under 20,000 a month, something has to give.

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    Here’s a suggestion: the Accord and Civic mode names have become too well-known and respected, perhaps more so than the Honda brand itself. This should be fixed at once by giving these car models new names, as forgettably alphanumeric as possible. Then go ahead and play with the styling a little bit, but by all means continue your focus on denying chronic quality issues and technological obsolescence in your vehicles. Use the same perception gap meme that worked so well for that big American car company. Your V6/5AT package is a worthy successor to the General’s trusty and durable 3.8 pushrod V6. Maybe you can be the next Oldsmobile if you keep playing your cards right!

  • avatar
    arbnpx

    Ito-san needs to take a look at the Toyota 86 / Subaru BRZ project, and what chief engineer Tetsuya Tada said at the Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/finally-ttac-gets-its-hands-on-the-ft86-and-its-chief-engineer/

    “There are cars that are accepted by a lot of people. Practical cars that are easy to drive and that do not break easily. These are standard Toyota cars. The 86 is not a car like that. We had to change our design approach for this car. We may have to do this again for other cars. It is impossible to develop a sports car that appeals to everybody. If you try to please everybody, the car would be half-baked for everybody, and not particularly good for anybody. This car is not developed by a committee, or by consensus.”

    When you set out to build a truly fun car, that is what you need to say. That was what was NOT said when developing the CR-Z, which was met with groans of disappointment when the curb weight and power were revealed, and when people found out that the “sport mode” drains very quickly under hard acceleration, to the point where the driver needs to coast for at least 15 minutes to regenerate the hybrid battery.

    When the FT-86 project was started, Toyota was pretty far astray in terms of fun. The MR-S / MR2 Spyder was nearing end of production, panned as too expensive and not powerful enough. The Supra had been discontinued in North America since 1997; the “real” MR2 stopped sales in North America in 1995. The Scion tC was the lone coupe, and while it was cheap, fun, and easy to mod, it was front wheel drive. If you wanted a rear-wheel-drive Toyota, you were stuck with the Tacoma X-Runner, which is fun, but a truck, and so severely limits its possibilities.

    The exasperating part with Honda is that they HAD a fun car recently, in the S2000. Sure, it was expensive, and a convertible, but it was all there, until Honda stopped production in the 2009 model year. They also had the NSX, but that stopped production as well (though somehow Honda got away with entering the HSV-010 GT in the SuperGT series, despite not being a production car; isn’t part of the point of homologation to ensure the aviailability of fun cars to the public?). Honda HAD engines, they HAD chassis, they apparently just sat back, listened to their regional supervisors, and decided to make boring cars instead.

    This is why I’m happy about Toyota’s decision to say, “We’re going to make this front-engined, rear-wheel-drive car, reminiscent of Hachi-Roku, with a boxer engine.” And that project kept going, primarily because the board couldn’t shut it down, because Akio Toyoda wanted to build that car. Honda needs a similar form of solidarity on their board, dedicated toward making one zany fun car. There have been too many years of heavy, bloated Acuras, heavy, bloated Civics, and heavy, bloated familymobiles.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      And then were going to slap a Scion logo on it and leave the 98% of car buyers who don’t visit sites like TTAC, Jalopnik, LLN, et al going, FT-86 AE-86 heritage, huh? What’s a Scion???

      Toyota’s marketing of the FT-86 in North America will be the biggest reason it fails. They should have called it the Toyota Celica, like in the rest of the world. An excitement based ad campaign with a message of, “the legend is back,” and harken back to the early days of the Celica when it was – a really fun to drive distinctly styled RWD coupe and hatch.

      Selling this side-by-side to the tC is just plain dumb.

      • 0 avatar
        WriterParty.com

        As far as I know, it’s not going to be called the Celica in any market. It’s going to be the Toyota GT86 and the Toyota 86 overseas. As lame as it is that they’re letting a cherished name continue to die, rather than resurrecting it a la Chevrolet Camaro, the Scion FR-S is the best thing the brand will have going, period. The xD and xB are not interesting, the tC is fugly, and the iQ is a total shrimp that will only sell to people who live in the middle of a giant city, for the most part.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    We will work on highly distinctive vehicles that are solid in environmental friendliness and safety…

    Honda is going to start building the Prius?

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    As an owner of an early 90’s Honda… I like boring. I did my due diligence and briefly cross shopped it against the then hot Neon. I was even semi-serious about it at the time.

    The problem with the industry in general is that the suits think that cars have to be ‘exciting’ and ‘aggressive’. It’s pretty much that episode of the Simpsons when the tv network comes up with Poochie.

    • 0 avatar
      acuraandy

      Didn’t ‘Poochie’ rap too? With Homer’s voice? lol

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      The problem is that they often look “exciting” and “aggressive” and are marketed as such, then when you go to buy them you find blind-spots, small trunk openings, and all the excitement of a Taurus.

      We need more “throwable” compacts, like the old CRX.

    • 0 avatar
      MusicMachine

      Thank you, stuntmonkey. Sustainable, simple, reliable, eager to please, efficient, high reving, well handling automobiles. Gimme a ’90-94 Accord. White, 5 spd. with air, black bumpers and no electric windows, Honda. A 2001 Civic will suffice too.

  • avatar
    jimmyy

    What is it with this boring stuff? Toyota and Honda are so much better than Detroit vehicles in every measure, the only negative thing you can dream up is calling them boring. Toyota and Honda vehicles are:

    1) More reliable
    2) Have better resale
    3) More durable
    4) More desirable
    5) Better actual MPG ( Detroit does a great job exaggerating EPA numbers )

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Detroit does a great job exaggerating EPA numbers

      Ya, those Civic hybrids are loved by their owners for delivering the MPG based on those EPA numbers.

      Who just settled a class action lawsuit over bogus EPA numbers again? Wasn’t that Honda??

      More desirable? I can’t wait to go out and buy me a Crosstour, HOT, HOT, HOT!!!

      Nothing to see here people, just more perception versus reality again.

      • 0 avatar
        Zykotec

        Yes, Honda actually own the EPA, and made up the numbers themselves :P
        And they only make the Civic Hybrid, it’s the only car they ever made , indeed…And yes, the Civic hybrid can’t even beat a fullsize truck in any economy race, ever.
        On the other hand, Opel, Daewoo, and Fiat has really started to turn Detroit around, so that they can compete with Ford again…

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      There you go again. If you bothered to read anything here, there is no Detroit vs Honda going on. This is a comparison of the Honda of old vs the present day Honda. And in that light, Honda has lost its way. But since you shot your mouth off, the Detroit of today is light years ahead of the Detroit of old…$hit, I can’t believe I feed this moronic troll…

  • avatar
    ckgs

    Despite all the exciting/boring/ugly arguments, Honda and Acura still deliver high value and exceptional reliability. I think they really misread the US market circa 2008-2009 and are still dealing with the resulting vehicles. Hopefully they can get back to their roots with the next round of models.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    The idea that Honda lost it’s mojo is something auto writers cooked up to have something to talk about. Cars with mojo have been the exception at Honda, not the rule. They’ve always been boring (most of them) and people accept that for two reasons; one, most people aren’t enthusiasts and are not going to be excited by their transport appliance in the firs place, and two, Honda offered an unusual level of reliability that was hard to match, at least in the US market.

    But that’s all in the past. Reliability is common now -it still varies, but there are relatively few real lemons out there now. Honda (and Toyota) can now offer only marginally higher reliability and can no longer command their premium prices for that reliability. Reliability was what Honda (and Toyota) had to offer that others didn’t, but now they must come up with something else – thus Honda must suddenly become “exiting”.

    If I may suggest a slogan – “Honda, we sell excitement!” Pontiac isn’t using it anymore.

    • 0 avatar
      stuntmonkey

      >The idea that Honda lost it’s mojo is something auto writers cooked up to have something to talk about.

      That reminds me of a quote from Reggie Jackson when he was playing for the Angels… or was it Oakland? Anyway, it was something he said to one of the rookies after a particularly bad game… “They don’t boo nobodies, you know.”

    • 0 avatar

      Even if only some Hondas of the past had mojo, do any today?

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      Even as a Honda fanboy (well, they’re not old Fords, but certainly 2nd best) I have problems seeing that Honda ever had very much ‘MOJO’ They made really good suspensions, steering and engines, and put them in mostly underpowered cars that could take a trashing, and loved to rev. They were considered really good because most other cars at the time were crap. In Europe they never did get the huge fan following, although they earned some enthusiasts, mostly because German cars at the time handled well, and were reasonably lightweight. (although not to the point of completely missing the idea of sound insulation, like Honda) The idea that they had a certain Mojo probably came from the fact that Toyota lost the little they had in the mid 70’s, and Datsun turning into Nissan didn’t help them much either. It’s a bit like the original Mini, it was never intended to be a fun car either, but most of it’s fans aren’t after one today because of it’s economy or practicality :P

  • avatar
    daveainchina

    Funny Larry Shinoda was talking about design by committee way back in the 1960’s and 1970’s. He said you could always tell the vehicles that were designed by committee they were just plain boring.

    I’ve felt that most cars are designed by committee and hopefully, eventually, manufacturers will realize that.

    I’d rather have a few edsel’s than all the bland vanilla-mobiles that are coming out from all manufacturers.

    If you line up all the “family cars” VW passat, Chevy malibu, kia optima etc etc etc. put them in blacked out profiles, how much real difference is there?

  • avatar
    JMII

    I’ll believe it when I see it. How many times have we been told the NSX is coming back? Even my wife commented yesterday after seeing a CR-Z about lame Honda products are these days. Their products are ugly and uninspired. Remember when the Civic ditched its famous double wishbone suspension setup? Honda finally build a turbo but puts it into a CUV? The Acura TL gains a beak and the Prelude disappears. All these “sins” add up. Its a real shame since our family was on once very loyal to Honda, we owned 2 Civics, a Prelude, two CRXs and a CR-V.

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    Hondas and Toyotas have become bland, rolling appliances ages ago. You buy them the same way you’d buy a washer/dryer combo, or a new fridge.

    There is nothing exciting or special about them. The mere thought that you might get excitement out of these “cars” means that the committees and focus groups didn’t do their job.

    And, personally, as an owner of Japanese cars in the past and present I think that the myth of Japanese superiority is just that: a myth. I’ve had reliable American and Japanese iron, and I’ve had crap American and Japanese cars.

    Honestly, I don’t know where people get the perception that a Civic or a Camry is so much better than the American (and German) competition. This recent revelation that the Civic is bland crap apparently only comes as a shock to Honda.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    >Honestly, I don’t know where people get the perception that a Civic or a Camry is so much better than the American (and German) competition.

    That fully spec-ed Neon I was cross shopping my ’95 Civic against? You don’t see any of them on the road anymore. You still see lots of Civics from that era in good condition. The real question is whether or not the Japanese can maintain what they had with the rising Yen.

  • avatar
    autoguy

    If the totally uninspired (play it safe)styling of the so called new Accord sedan is an example of Honda’s effort to make exciting cars then HOnda is truly lost. Honda and Acura design studios do not have a clue as to how to design a stunningly attractive vehicle, their designs are either bland, boring or just ugly. There is not a single Acura/Honda product that I would buy based upon its styling alone. As a friend of mine recently told me, he bought a new Cr-V even though he did not like the styling at all. Even though I need to replace my 2003 Accord, the styling of the dated, bland styling of the Accord is a “deal breaker” and I will buy either an Optima, Fusion or Mazda 6 all of which have styling that are lights years ahead of the dowdy and tepid effort by Honda.


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

  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States
  • J Emerson, United States