By on October 30, 2012

Today was a historic day in my automotive life; I drove my first Chinese car.

As previously mentioned, TTAC has gotten their hands on a Chinese-made Honda Fit. It’s nothing special; Canada has been getting Chinese-made Fits for the better part of a year now. Europe has been getting Chinese-made models (sold as the Jazz) for half a decade. At first glance, quality issues seem to be non-existent, though the choice of paint color made me chuckle.

Some commenters suggested that a Chinese made Fit was actually a non-story, but I respectfully disagree. That North America’s first Chinese car came from an established OEM rather than a Chinese brand trying to get a foothold in North America is important in itself. Honda couldn’t have greater connotations of Japanese engineering superiority if it tried, and the Fit has always been a Japan-made anomaly in a field of North American built competitors. Whether the Fit is still competitive in a field of newer, more advanced subcompacts is another matter.

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51 Comments on “Our First Chinese Car Is Here For The Week...”


  • avatar

    As long as you don’t hit anyone/or get hit by anyone and don’t have the car long enough to see its reliability/quality issues, it’s all good!

    • 0 avatar
      Thinx

      “Honda couldn’t have greater connotations of Japanese engineering superiority if it tried”

      I don’t think the “Japanese engineering superiority” is the source of skepticism. The problem is the “Chinese lead-paint in children’s toys” kind of manufacturing superiority. Or “exploding capacitors on circuit boards” superiority. Or “snapped tools from Harbor Freight” superiority.

    • 0 avatar
      Magnusmaster

      Most Chinese cars are bad even at first glance, so if Chinese Fits have no quality issues then that’s good. I hope it doesn’t have asbestos though. Recently a bunch of Cherys with asbestos were found in Australia, and also in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay (they had to make a recall for that issue, as cars with asbestos had already been sold). Until China bans asbestos, I wouldn’t get close to a Chinese car ever…

  • avatar
    philadlj

    I’ll bet it could still could crush the EuroNCAP 1-Star Brilliance BS6 like the potato chip bag that it is, but there aren’t any of those in Canada.

  • avatar
    niky

    Be interesting to see how the interior holds up. The Hondas I’ve driven coming from Thai and Chinese factories don’t have the same fit and finish as Japanese made ones.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Our 2007 Made in Japan Fit has a dash rattle (basically from new), and now the right front speaker seems to be on its way out despite us not really blasting music from the crappy 160 watt stereo. The interior in general is of a significantly lower quality than the brown padded vinyl dash, tweed cloth seats, and solid chrome plated door pulls we had in our 1990 Civic wagon that preceded it. It is also tippier in corners and has much less feel to the steering. Visibility, albeit excellent compared to most contemporaries, is MUCH worse than the old Wagon, which felt like driving a fishbowl. Anyone who rode in the front seat commented on the incredible view in all directions, but especially forward. The Civic Wagons had a siginificantly higher seating position than the hatchbacks, which magnified the ‘fishbowl’ sensation.

      Much of this comparison/rant has nothing to do with the article, I guess I just needed to vent about how much I miss my old Civic!

      • 0 avatar
        Freddy M

        LOL vent away brother.

        You’ve just described the epitome of “they don’t build them like they used to”

        Seriously, what’s up with this “raise the window beltlines up like Urkel’s trousers” trend? I sat in a freakin’ new Camaro once and the windows were nothing more than gun ports for drive-bys. Trying to rest my elbow on the ledge was a magnificently awkward experience and made me look the total opposite of cool from the outside.

      • 0 avatar
        niky

        You want visibility in a Coupe rear seat, buy a Genesis. :p

        I believe the dash rattle is endemic to the Fit chassis cars. Something to do with the dash design itself.

        What I’ve been disappointed with on e Thai Hondas is rubber trim fitting and quality. Leaks, squeaks and whatnot.

        More recently, i had a Japanese Civic for a week. Pretty fantastic interior. Then I had two Thai Civics in a row. Both had the finish on e armrests peeling off. And they had less than three thousand miles on the clock…

  • avatar
    troyohchatter

    My UK built 2003 Honda CR-V, bought new, got traded off recently at 125K miles because, and no joke, it was the biggest lemon I have hever had the displeasure of owning. The fit/finish sucked, the carpet and overall interior basically wore out or fell apart, and I was lucky to see it go prior to the A/C grenading. My 2000 first gen CR-V has been beaten to the tune of 160K miles and overall the car is in much better shape than my babied 2003 was when traded. Yes, it seems place of manufacturer has a great deal to do with quality.

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      Not at all, especially not so with the UK branch on Honda (well, since after they stopped making them as Rovers at least) I also happen to have a UK built 2003 CR-V, and as far as I know, only tires and oil/filters have been replaced. That goes for most of the Hondas sold in Europe the last 20 years as far as I know. Fit and finish is not intended to be BMW like, but at least they run all year round , unlike BMWs…(and they keep beating Toyota on reliability reguarly)

    • 0 avatar
      MrWhopee

      You, sir, have an amazing fortitude and patience to endure such a lemon for so many years and so many miles! If it was that bad, most would’ve ditched it long ago. What made you torture yourself so much? Obviously not your love for Hondas, yours particularly!

      • 0 avatar
        troyohchatter

        It was just stupid stuff that never goes out on a Honda. Window switches, dome light switches on the B post that were depressed when a door was closed broke. The carpet, I mean, that blew me away that of all things, CARPET would wear out. The doorframes would blow open during a hard sidewind at speed and result in wind noise. But we bought it new and I figured the hard bits would stay together. But then it got to where, at 125K miles, the power steering pump was on it’s last leg but would get through a test drive. The A/C issues on 2002-2004’s is well documented and we thought “time for a change.” It’s funny because many of the Honda folks would attempt to tell me how hard we were on our cars. While my wife was driving highway or a 2 mile commute, I was using my 200 CR-V fora dog hauler and home improvement. She has 156K miles on it and runs like a top, no wind noise, carpet fine, and the only thing I have had to have repaired was a seeping oil pan gasket and a clutch slave cyl, both understandable at that mileage and age.

        But I would park each one side by side and compare interior bits and overall quality and the 2000 Japan built V had it all over the UK unit. Oh, and the 2003 had more stone chips in the paint at 10K miles than my 2000 did at 100K miles. We ended up getting a bug shield to keep the paint chips at bay.

  • avatar
    L'avventura

    It is kinda is a non-story.

    The Chinese Honda Fits are a stop-gap until the Mexican plant comes online in a year or so. Cars like the Fit don’t sell in volume in the US and Canada to justify US/Canadian production. Toyota has even resorted to importing the Yaris from France into the US due to how uneconomical Japanese production is.

    If the question is can China build a quality Honda Fit; it can.

    • 0 avatar
      MrWhopee

      China don’t really have a ‘problem’ per se with building things. All of those vaunted Apple products are build there, you know! But they do have a problem in designing/engineering, as befit a country so newly ‘matured’. The Japanese, Koreans, have that problem too in the beginning. So, yes, unless the article is about a chinese designed/engineered car, this is kinda a non-story.

  • avatar
    djsyndrome

    “That North America’s first Chinese car”

    Not entirely true, as the Coda has been on sale since March.

  • avatar
    Lynchenstein

    Nothing new to motorcyclists. Yamaha have been selling Chinese-made motorcycles for some time here in Canada. I wouldn’t be surprised if Honda and Kawasaki did the same.

    On the lesser brands, it’s the metals that seem to be lacking – softer and prone to cracks or breaks. I’m sure Honda is keeping a close eye on the quality control.

    I could see sabotage from Chinese workers pissed about the island dispute however….

  • avatar
    Autobraz

    Holding on to my “Made in Japan” Fit while I can…

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    > Whether the Fit is still competitive in a field of newer, more advanced subcompacts is another matter

    It’s near the end of it’s life cycle, so the Chinese Fit is a test run… I wouldn’t get it. If for whatever reason they switch Canada supply to Mexico for the next generation, that would mean that current Fit’s would be manufacturing “orphans”. I’m not sure if it matters, since a Fit is a Fit and parts are interchangeable.

  • avatar
    LeeK

    My Chinese-assembled iPad, Lenovo Thinkpad laptop computer, and Samsung cellphone don’t seem to elicit the same fears of inferior quality workmanship. If they can put together complex electronic componentry, why the fear about a car? I see the same debates about Mexican vs. German made VWs.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    The Chinese will build anything to any quality level that you want to pay them for. From cheap lead-painted toys to iPhones. It’s a Honda. It will be built like a Honda no matter which robots build it.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      That’s it, really. Between automation and manufacturer-mandated quality standards, you can absolutely build top-notch cars in China.

      Whether Honda’s factory is up to par may be the only question, I have no personal experience with the Fit though, so will not express an opinion on that..

    • 0 avatar
      PintoFan

      “It will be built like a Honda no matter which robots build it.”

      So basically, it will still be an over-praised, over-priced, mediocre product full of obsolete technology?

  • avatar
    infinitime

    Are robots in China any different from the robots in Japanese/American/German plants? Given that this is a Honda-designed vehicle, manufactured at one of its newest plants (in Guangzhou, China), I can’t imagine there to be any significant difference.

    I always get a kick out of the China-bashers, who clearly have very little experience/knowledge with modern manufacturing practices.

    For electronics and things like cars, the extent of human involvement is minimal. In cars, it is often confined to putting in the seats, and applying on the badges. So unless Honda has spec-ed out lower grade fabrics and plastics, the assembly location should not be an issue, regardless if it is Thailand, China, or Mexico.

    What would be at issue are those cars DESIGNED by Chinese manufacturers, who have yet to achieve world standards for safety and reliability… However, even that is changing, based on current Euro-NCAP results for the SAIC-designed MG6.

    http://www.wautom.com/2012/04/crash-test-saic-mg6-euro-ncap-4-stars/

    At least for the first tier manufacturers (FAW, SAIC), safety is coming close to being on par with western standards.

    As to building to a price-point, that is true of everyone. A 2000 Cavalier was certainly capable of being a much better car, if GM was will to spend another $500 for each unit. The same applies here.

    The problem for many of the smaller Chinese manufacturers is that they NEED to compete in the $8,000 – $10,000USD range, if they are to be competitive in their domestic market, where Chinese consumers do not have as much disposable income… hence the cars offered by Geely, Chery, and a plethora of lessor brands. Basically, cheap transportation built to a price point… However, these will probably never grace western roads, so really, why would we need to concern ourselves?

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      “Are robots in China any different from the robots in Japanese/American/German plants? ”

      Sure, they’re probably much newer and more advanced.

      I used to work for a large company that made complex and expensive electromechanical equipment in the US, Europe, Thailand, and China. Regardless of the manufacturing plant, all products were made to the same design with a mix of local and common suppliers.

      Without exception, the location with the best quality at any given time was the location that had most recently invested in their production equipment and/or renovated the plant.

      I used to get a kick out of the end users who would demand “quality” US or EU equipment over the “inferior” Thai or Chinese stuff; even though the US/EU plants were decades old with antiquated equipment and the Asian plants were building the same gear in new plants with world-class technology.

      They would have been better off with the Asia-manufactured products. Really.

      I got to see the failure and service call rate for products made in all of the above manufacturing locations. China can absolutely build as good of a product as any other nation.

    • 0 avatar
      cornellier

      “…the assembly location should not be an issue, regardless if it is Thailand, China, or Mexico.” Fancy that. Even North America?

  • avatar
    PintoFan

    You have to laugh at the people defending Chinese product quality by citing I-products, TV’s and laptops. The last time I checked, most consumer electronics were fundamentally disposable, instantly obsolete crap that would make Alfred P. Sloan blush. If Kreindler was really serious about demonstrating the quality of Chinese products, he would politely ask Honda if he could drive it into a wall at 30 mph.

    I went to a house auction a few years ago, for a couple that was downsizing and moving to Florida. They had a lot of antiques for sale, but by far the most interesting thing they had was the 50-year-old Westinghouse chest freezer in the basement. Opening it up let out a blast of cold air that would have made an Eskimo shiver. The old man proudly informed me that besides a new belt for the compressor in the 90’s and the occasional grease job, every part on it was as new as the day it came out of the factory. You couldn’t buy an equivalent today, because there’s no money in marketing appliances built to last a lifetime. I would have taken it off his hands then and there, had it not weighed the better part of 600 lbs.

    The sale of this car should be suspended until Honda can prove, through certified crash testing, that it meets all applicable Canadian standards. Poorly made consumer electronics are a nuisance. Unsafe cars are a public menace,

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Thing is – that old freezer probably uses enough excess electricity over a modern one to PAY for a new one every decade or so. And it weighs 600lbs, and it probably cost 10X as much adjusted for inflation. The good old days are NOW. In appliances, as in cars. And in damned near everything else.

      This car is the very same Honda Fit made in several other places in the world. It is not a Chinese-designed Chery with a Honda badge slapped on it. Get a grip man.

      Though I do tend to agree it might be “over-priced, over-hyped, and made with ancient tech”. I LOL’d.

      • 0 avatar
        PintoFan

        “This car is the very same Honda Fit made in several other places in the world.”

        How do you know? Did you disassemble it and test the metallurgy of all the body panels and the frame? Did you test the airbag sensors to see if they actually work? Did you test the paint for lead content, or the plastics for dioxins? Why would you assume that the Chinese build a car any differently than the way they build everything else? Design is meaningless when component quality is absent. Maybe Honda thinks they can fool some Canadians into believing they’re getting a quality product, but they’re only mortgaging today so they can buy tomorrow.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        @Pintofan

        Because the CHINESE are not building the car, Honda is. Why would HONDA, a company with a pretty sterling reputation (deserved or not), build a car in a sub-standard manner? The factory is located in China, but it is a HONDA factory. The Chinese built Fit will be just as good or bad as every other Fit.

      • 0 avatar
        PintoFan

        You do nothing to address the substance of my criticism. The quality of a car is only as good as the quality of suppliers’ parts. It’s cute that you think it must be a good product just because it has a Honda badge affixed to it, regardless of the circumstances in which it was built.

    • 0 avatar
      Charliej

      People that yearn for “the good old days” likely did not live in the good old days. I owned mid fifties Chevys when they weren’t classics, they were just cars. I am not picking on Chevrolet, all cars were crap then. Modern cars are so much better than what was foisted off on the American public at that time. My career was in electronics. Every generation of electronics gets better and cheaper. Cars are almost the same. Every generation gets better, just not cheaper. People who are fanboys for any make give me a pain in the ass. All modern cars are good. If you look at the differences, they are minute. The anger against China, is just the recognition that China is the future. America is the past.

      • 0 avatar
        PintoFan

        Cars have indeed improved. I don’t think appliances have. Consumer electronics of the kind you can buy today haven’t really been around long enough to judge. But at least in the days of tube TV’s and VCRs, if something broke it could be fixed. That’s not really the case anymore. It’s all made to be disposable.

        If China is the future then I have sincere doubts about the sustainability of humanity.

    • 0 avatar
      infinitime

      Not defending Chinese products per se, but just the realities of modern, STANDARDIZED manufacturing. You fail to understand that all suppliers to the plant must meet Honda’s standards.

      You also fail to appreciate the sheer volume of products manufactured in China. It spans the spectrum from your dollar-store/Walmart garbage, to top-tier networking equipment, to state-of-the-art communication satellites.

      To judge Chinese products in its ENTIRETY with gross generations, is not any more accurate than to judge American products based on a Ford Pinto…

      Actually, that is rather ironic given your username.

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        I can’t think of anything that is not a disposable product that is made in China. Tools, Welders, Grills, Bicycles…companies may build in China, but the top tier stuff is overwhelmingly built elsewhere. Why is that if there is no difference in the quality of manufacturing.

        Sure my iPad is a quality product, but I know going in that it isn’t going to last 20 years no matter how well it’s built due mainly to the battery and no one keeps stuff like that that long. My old Palm vX isn’t 20 years old yet but even if it still worked it would not be of particular use to me due to the fact that tech changes so quickly and it is obselete.

      • 0 avatar
        PintoFan

        ” You fail to understand that all suppliers to the plant must meet Honda’s standards.”
        In theory. And there’s nothing to say those standards won’t be bent if cheaper materials are available. Especially when the intended market is Chinese domestic, and not for export.

        “You also fail to appreciate the sheer volume of products manufactured in China.”
        Oh, I am quite aware of it. I have had more than enough experience with motherboards that commit capacitor suicide, failing power supplies, video cards that are designed to fail, washing machines and vacuum cleaners that are junk after 3 years, and myriad other examples to know their manufacturing philosophy. If you want to waste your money, go ahead, but I won’t be fooled. It’s too bad that we don’t have a choice in a lot of categories anymore.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    “the Fit has always been a Japan-made anomaly in a field of North American built competitors.”

    When the Fit was launched in the US in 2006, it was competing against Aveos, Rios and Accents made in Korea, and a Scion xA and Toyota Yaris built in Japan. Nissan started building the Versa in Mexico, and Ford didn’t have a subcompact at that time.

    The only things that have changed since then is that GM now makes the subcompact in Michigan and Ford has launched a subcompact built in Mexico. Hyundai, Kia and TMC still produce their subcompacts outside of North America.

    I would presume that Canada is being used as a trial balloon to test North American acceptance of Chinese-made cars. If Canada embraces them, then they may very well try to expand the effort to the US.

    • 0 avatar
      cornellier

      Most Fit buyers don’t know or care where car was manufactured. Look at this from the other perspective, we don’t see anyone arguing that a Japanese-built Mazda3 is superior to a Civic or Corolla, both of which are built generally near their points of sale.

    • 0 avatar

      I forgot to include “Korean” as well, thank you for that.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      I think Honda would love to sell a Chinese made Fit in the US. The reality is that there is a very prevelant sentiment in the US that China=Crap. We are still at least a generation away from that changing enough that people will plunk out the price of a car IMHO if it is made in China.

      Also, Honda’s fetch a premium price wise. Anyone buying a Chinese built car is going to expect Yugo pricing, not the Honda Tax.

      Also, “North American” acceptance does not equal US acceptance. The automotive landscape in Canada and the US is not the same.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    There was zero evidence that Americans could build high quality cars until Honda set up shop in Ohio.

  • avatar
    Whuffo2

    What I find interesting is that Honda makes the Fit for export only. It’s a low-budget version of the Honda Jazz which has the same body, but much nicer interior and many more standard features – and better engines. They’re making the Fit in China, Thailand, (and other countries) and US Fits will be made in Canada soon. The Jazz is made in Japan.

    I’ve been doing some research into these; it’s about time for a new car here to replace the Jimny, and the Jazz is at the top of my short list. They’re pretty nice.

    Something that I see over and over again is that in the US, small cars are cheaper in every way. Cardboard door panels, bare minimum interiors, tiny engines. The auto companies go out of their way to make them undesirable – leading consumers to “upgrade” to larger vehicles than they need to get something reasonably well appointed.

    I keep wondering what would happen if smaller “right sized” vehicles were built with all the “good stuff” that’s currently reserved for the larger cars. The Japanese (and Germans) know very well how to do this and these vehicles would probably sell well; they wouldn’t be a lot cheaper than the larger cars at purchase, but they’d use a lot less fuel.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      US market Honda Fits have been made in Japan since their introduction. The Fit name is used in Japan, and the JDM version being substandard would be news to the Japanese. The engine used in the US Fit is the most powerful one offered in any Fit, and has 17% more power than the top engine fitted to a Jazz for Europe. The Jazz engines are optimized for EU CO2 based taxation, but that doesn’t make them any more fun to drive. The Jazz is made in Thailand and England, if not in other countries as well. So other than being wrong in pretty much everything you wrote about the Fit, you made some interesting points.

      There is some decontenting evident in US Fits(cargo shelf is a dealer installed option – come on!), but that may change when production shifts to Mexico and Honda gets serious about selling them. The Yen is too strong for the Fit to be profitable, which may be why they rate the fuel mileage so low. The automatic is rated at 30 mpg combined, while magazine tests have returned 36 mph while being driven much faster than the EPA testing regiment involves. The US made Civic is almost certainly cheaper to bring to market than the Japanese Fit, but the Civic can command higher prices. I’m sure Honda would rather make money on Civics than lose it on Fits. The $19,240 that it costs to put a Fit Sport in your California driveway doesn’t seem cheap for a subcompact, so going up a couple grand to add interior color choices and a sunroof isn’t going to turn the Fit into a 3-series alternative.

      Not far above the Fit in price is the Prius. If you care about fuel use above all else, you can get a roomy car driven by celebrities and the very rich for about what Europeans are paying for their diesel penalty boxes. Making tiny, expensive cars to save fuel is a non-starter in a country where the average car accumulates 15,000 miles a year.


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