By on February 19, 2013

One of the most enduring narratives in the past few years has been the idea that somehow, Honda has lost it’s way. The maker of affordable, high-quality and fun to drive cars had suddenly become a purveyor of bland appliances that were the furthest thing from what they built their name on.

I’d argue that those who only focus on the loss of the Integra Type-R, the S2000 and the double wishbone suspension are taking a short-sighted view of Honda as a company. If anything, they are carrying on in exactly the same manner as they always have – it’s just that they haven’t adapted to the unprecedented shifts that have occurred in the post-bailout car market.

To understand Honda, you have to look outside the enthusiast lore of Soichiro Honda, VTEC engines and Formula 1. Honda is, above and beyond everything else, the iconoclast in the Japanese market, the small company with an international mindshare belying that size. Soichiro Honda, the legendary namesake founder, was something of a rebel, having little time for the stifling conformity of post-WWII Japan. The Japanese government attempted to merge Honda with a number of smaller auto makers and stop them from exporting their cars to the states – a move Soichiro successfully fought, that led to the company being given permission to export their wares to America. Ever since, Soichiro’s unconventional views have defined the company.

Key among these is an unshakable conviction – some would say bordering on arrogance – that whatever Honda does is the right way, the only way to do things. View things through this lens, and a lot of their decisions begin to make sense. Why introduce a V6 Accord when the 4-cylinder model was selling in huge volumes and offered a superior driving experience? Why give Acura a V8 engine when Honda’s V6 was just as powerful and more efficient to boot? Why introduce a minivan when the Accord wagon was sufficient? And when we do, why not give it conventionally hinged doors and a 4-cylinder engine? This philosophy is summed up perfectly by Soichiro himself: “We do not make something because the demand, the market is there. With our technology, we can create the demand, we can create the market.”

From 1973 until the turn of the millennium  Honda’s convictions served them well. They rode wave after wave of success in America, selling every single car they could make, winning accolade after accolade, avoiding the recalls and scandals that plagued their competitors. If one subscribes to the narrative popular with us gearheads, then the mid-2000s are the start of Honda’s decline into beigeland. But this is a narrow-minded view that has little grounding in reality. Sales of Honda’s core products – the Accord, CR-V and Civic – have been exceptionally strong on a consistent basis. The CR-V, a vehicle so boring that even my own mother admitted that it was a dull drive, is the best example of how Honda’s ingenuity is far from dead. The little features, like the knee-high cargo floor, the multi-angle backup camera and the one-touch rear folding seats, are what the other 99.9 percent of buyers care about. Honda knows what side their bread is buttered on. But these days, Honda’s innovation and engineering skill manifest themselves in the Fit’s Magic Seat rather than the Prelude’s 4WS system.

So what about us? What about the people who yearn for something that’s exciting to drive and look at? Here, Honda’s legendary adherence to their convictions starts to border on arrogance. Having long believed in environmental stewardship before it was trendy (think 4-cylinder engines, light weight and the S2000 having LEV certification), Honda foisted upon us cars like the CR-Z.  Substantial tax breaks on hybrid cars in Japan created a situation where the rest of the world was forced to accept this oddball product. The fact that nobody wanted the car was immaterial. Honda felt that was the right thing to do, and that they could create a market for it.

This strategy may have worked in previous eras, but Honda wasn’t prepared for a fundamental shift in the car market – they no longer had a monopoly on good cars. Pick up a car magazine from a decade ago, and there was a clear stratification in commodity segments like the compact and mid-size segments. Back then, mentioning the Kia Optima and the Honda Accord in the same breath would have been a farcical notion. Ditto the Cavalier and the Civic. Now, one could make the case that the Optima and the Cruze are equal to their Honda counterparts, something that would have been previously unthinkable. The democratization of quality wiped out much of Honda’s competitive advantage.

Ironically, the 2012 Civic might be our best hope for a change in Honda’s attitude. Despite being a perennial whipping boy among the enthusiast press, the Civic sold in astonishing volumes. Even though it took substantial incentives and lease deals to move units, the Civic destroyed the competition, outselling the Toyota Corolla/Matrix (for sales ranking purposes, they count as one) by nearly 27,000 units. With 317,909 Civics sold in 2012, Honda beat Mazda’s entire sales total with one model alone.

If this were any other era Honda -the Honda of old, the one that retained CVCC long after catalytic converters had become old tech, the one that built a brand new factory for its all-aluminum, hand-built supercar –  would have given the press a giant middle finger and continued to pump these cars out. But they didn’t, because things are different now. They re-grouped, admitted they made a bad bet and tweaked the car after just over a year on the market. In the conservative, risk-averse culture of Honda that prizes saving face above all else, this is tantamount to an admission of gross incompetence. It may not be what we were hoping for, but the first step to fixing things is admitting that you have a problem.

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79 Comments on “Generation Why: What’s Eating Soichiro Honda?...”


  • avatar
    Rday

    Well I have only had one HOnda and that is a Ridgeline pickup. Love the truck and all the features is has. Fun to drive and very comfortable seats. I hate all the maintenance required. Seems like it is always needing some kind of expensive fluid change. And it has to be Honda brand fluid. SO I will keep my RIdgeline and when it goes I will go back to Toyota, the really number 1 car company IMO. I have a Sienna and it is completely trouble free. My Prius was the best car I have ever owned, SO Toyota will always get my vote.

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      I looked and test drove a Ridgeline as my replacement for my 1/2 truck. I wanted something smaller that could fit in my garage but tow ~ 6k lbs without any major issues. What I couldn’t get over is the fuel mileage it normally gets (high teens which is what a v8 pickup can get). I wound up ignoring it altogether to get a Jeep (I was fearful as Jeep’s quality is unbecoming) but they set themselves apart offering 4wd, 26 hwy / 20 city mpg (diesel engine), can tow 7500 lbs but most importantly the ability to park it in a normal sized garage. What irks me is that Honda was supposed to bring us a v6 diesel option for the Odyssey, Pilot and Ridgeline but gave up on it b/c of its challenge – something Sorichiro would not have done. Instead they spent billions investing in hybrid drive trains that are also rans against the Prius lineup (same price but don’t deliver the same mileage). In fact I think since Honda has hybrid infatuation and are trying to keep up with Toyota it’s core has suffered with becoming an average car for average folks. It looks like Honda is betting against Toyota but Honda’s put way too much into the pot and now has only one strategy to keep on bluffing b/c it’s too expensive to fold.

      I think Sorichiro’s spirit has somehow been involved with and eventually moved over to Mazda. They still focus on not being the purveyor of mediocre vehicles for sale domination. They provide the best support to grassroots car enthusiasts and every car they sell still has some fun to drive aspect. Their new Skyactiv platforms are hitting full swing with Sorichiro’s old formula: small yet over achieving engines (diesel option in the Mazda6 and next year the CX-5), lightweight, fun to drive, and unique.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      I thought the Ridgeline was a badge engineered Isuzu. I drove a co-workers and liked it.

  • avatar

    You gave the answer to your question in the article. Who’s eating Honda? Dacia, Fiat, Ford, Hyundai-Kia, Nissan-Renault. They all have launched small cars that are as good or, IMO, better than Honda’s.

    In the mid segment, try as they might, Toyota beats them (in sales), Chevy has fielded some credible opposition, Hyundai and Kia too.

    Seems a lot like VW in Brazil. Perennial leadership (+50 yrs) led them to believe they ruled the market. Only 2 doors on small cars when everybody offered 4, longitudinal engines, poor content etc. They lost their leadership and have been for over a decade in 2nd. Now they have pouched talent from other companies, launch products the market wants, offer new cars instead of the endless re-style the same old mantra. They have a shot at 1st this year.

    It took VW more than a decade to react. Could Honda react in a shorter time? The Civic is a good indication, but its the only one I see so far.

    • 0 avatar
      Autobraz

      I completely agree with the analogy, Marcelo.
      What happens to VW couldn’t care less, but it pains me to see Honda as it is today. I grew up in the McLaren-Honda years of F1, dreamed about NSXs. Just saw the receptionist in the office here arriving in her mother’s S2000 and was drooling (on the car). And am quite happy with my little old Fit – although wouldn’t probably buy it if wanted to buy new.

      Mazda seems to be taking over Honda in my automotive imagination.

    • 0 avatar
      L'avventura

      As far as Honda reacting, they’ve reacted in record-time with the new 2013 Civic. Essentially, a car that while critically panned, it still sold well, they changed it in single model and at the cost of billions.

      I can’t recall another car maker responding so quickly in response to critical automotive reviews. Honda’s subsequent cars, like the new Accord, seem to be both critically successful as well as a sales success.

      Furthermore, looking at the technology they have planned, the future seems bright for Honda. ‘Earthdreams’, while a horrible name derived from their failed F1-team, is a convincing set of technology:

      Honda does most with what they are limited too; transversely mounted FWD engines. They rightfully focus on CVT for the more plebeian vehicles, and DCT on sportier vehicles. They’ve moved to a dual-clutch-based full hybrid system, which in their new V6 hybrid makes 370hps without much of a struggle.

      To counter their lack of RWD, they’ve found a affordable method to add electric four-wheel steering (4WS adding just 7 lbs to a car). Their E-AWD system does AWD using electric motors, without need of a complex drive-shaft (Porsche 918-esque). And all this technology in modular, that system flipped in the basis for the next NSX.

  • avatar
    buffaloboxster

    Maybe for Honda, yes but applied to Acura this is a load of crap. In the late 90s, when I bought my Integra GS-R, the Acura dealer was a busy place full of products people with a pulse wanted to buy. They were economical, well made, luxurious. They were better cars than their competition and people wanted them. Now, you see a handful of RDX and MDX models, but most of the cars are used. Nobody wants any of the sedans. In the meantime, Mercedes, BMW, and Audi have exploded in popularity while Acura’s products languish. If just having good products isn’t enough for Honda to generate excitement, then having mediocre products is killing Acrua.

    The crux of the problem is that the brand has no identity This goes beyond the demise of the Type R or the lack of an NSX. There is no excitement in the Acura camp, and this is for a brand that was the “fun to drive” brand out of the Japanese luxury makers. The Infiniti G35 changed all that.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    i just looked at honda’s website where i am

    their catalog has nothing interesting… at all

    i can say the same about toyota… except for the 86

    mazda is about the same but at least they have the CX5, Mazda 5

    koreans look a fair bit more interesting but otherwise…

    • 0 avatar
      tbone33

      Mazda also has the Miata (interesting), Mazdaspeed3 (interesting muscle car), has a diesel coming next year, and may bring the rotary back. I get your point about Japan not being interesting anymore, but the company from Hiroshima is the exception.

      • 0 avatar
        Morgan

        The Speed3 is in no way a muscle car. It is interesting.

      • 0 avatar
        Mykl

        I’d like to put my vote in to support the description of the MS3 as a muscle car. Perhaps a modern interpretation of one in that it has a four cylinder and is FWD, but still meets the basic definition of a muscle car.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        If a Mazdaspeed 3 passes as a “modern interpertaion of a muscle car”, than my old Dodge Omni passes as an 80’s “interpretation” of a Dodge Charger…wait, don’t answer that.

        But with this logic, we might as well say “The new Camry is a modern interpretation of a V8 Torino sedan”.

        My basic formula for a muscle car is 2-doors, RWD, a V8, and it was obviously built for straight-line speed over handling.
        A four-door FWD family sedan doesn’t fit that formula.

      • 0 avatar
        Maymar

        Technically, for the Speed3 to approach being a muscle car, it’d need the 3.7L V6. But, hey, being a powerful little brute of a thing, close enough.

  • avatar
    jz78817

    “Key among these is an unshakable conviction – some would say bordering on arrogance – that whatever Honda does is the right way, the only way to do things.”

    That’s more the attitude of a lot of Japanese corporations, not just Honda.

    “We do not make something because the demand, the market is there. With our technology, we can create the demand, we can create the market.”

    Sounds like the way Sony used to be. The problem is that they (the Japanese big companies) are *very* slow to react when the plan goes off the rails. Sony used the be the Honda of the electronics industry. Sony defined the market. Then Apple came along along and kicked the plan off of the rails, and Sony has been foundering ever since.

    and as far as Honda’s “technology,” I’m not seeing it. They’ve mostly iterated and refined what they’ve been using for a long time (which is one reason for their high reliability ratings.) They’re just now going to 6-speed transmissions and direct injection. In terms of “technology” they actually seem to be behind most of the rest of the market.

    • 0 avatar
      Signal11

      Sony didn’t get its shit pushed in by Apple. Sony got its shit pushed in by Samsung.

      • 0 avatar
        jz78817

        No, that’s what’s happening *now.* Apple kneecapped Sony starting over a decade ago with the iPod. Portable music used to mean “Walkman,” now it means iPod/iPhone. Portable gaming now means “smartphone,” not “PSP.”

        Samsung’s just moving in for the kill.

  • avatar
    Synchromesh

    My apologies but I think you got it all wrong, Derek. It’s not so much because the quality of other cars went up that it became similar to Chevy and Kia. It’s mostly because the quality of Honda went waaay down that this happened.

    I used to be a diehard Honda fan and drove them for 12 years straight. Nowadays I wouldn’t touch one because frankly-speaking they’re built like cheap pieces of junk that they are. Sure, they’re still reliable but that awesome engineering that made the cars fun to drive and own is simply not there any longer. I’ve compared my old Integra GS-R to a newer Civic Si and the difference was negligible if you take out some of the newer gizmos that are standard for this car class. Just remember that Integra was designed in early 90s while Si that I drove was a 2007 model (this was a few years back).

    I’ve sat in a coworkers newer regular Civic before (from late 2000s) and it felt very cheap and economy inside. They cheapened out the interior to the max even in previous gen and that two-tier dashboard looked just ugly, not quirky. It felt a bit like a penalty box to me. And this is why after over a decade of used Hondas I gave my money to Subaru. Sure, the interior is just as cheap but at least I know where my money went – into the drivetrain. Something that Honda used to be good at.

  • avatar
    mikedt

    It’s not just cars. Most of my motorcycle friends feel Honda has lost its way there as well. The current lineup has a lot of bloated, expensive bikes with features that nobody has asked for (vtec and automatic transmissions come to mind). Bikes that had a loyal following were changed to the point that the people who bought the previous model want nothing to do with the current model. And in general they seemed to have abandoned anything that would excite a motorcycle buyer.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      Agreed. Kawasaki and Suzuki are doing a better job and the Europeans are where most of the real fun is these days (at least for non-cruiser street bikes).

      It must be pointed out that this isn’t the first time Honda has tried to push the automatic, there were those wretched 2-speed CB750 Hondamatics back in the ’70s. As far as I know, no one bought them. And more recently, Yamaha had piles of leftover automatic FJR1300s, a true crime against motorcycling as far as I’m concerned. A double crime as the original FJR was introduced on a “put down a big deposit and we’ll tell you when you can pick up your bike” program that made it damned hard to buy one (Bonus! December delivery!). Then they go and dump a bunch of auto versions that no one wanted. I bought 3 new Yamahas in the ’80s, two of them FJs. It will be a long time before I buy anything from them.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      I was so excited when Honda introduced their NAS V-twin concept only to be let down when it didn’t go into production. There is hope though. Honda is planning to bring a V4 Supersport to market and if the planets and stars align just right a naked version might follow.

      I agree with bunkie regarding euro bikes. There much to be excited about at Ducati and if KTM brings the new 1290 Superduke to the states I’ll park one in my garage.

      As far as Honda automobiles go, for me its comme ci, comme ca. I was never a Honda homer but do respect how they went about their business. We have a MDX that’s close to 200k miles and besides the pcv valve (which was a known defect and warrantied to 125k iirc) we’ve only done normal maintenance.

      Honda put a lot of money towards their jet. I don’t know how much, if any, that effected the car and motorcycle divisions. I do know I’d love to fly it.

    • 0 avatar
      Robstar

      I’m not sure I agree with this. Honda has released some INTERESTING bikes the past few years…

      CBR 250r
      NC700X
      NT700V
      CB500X
      CB500R
      CB500F
      CTX700N

      I think these are ALL new in the last 5 years or so.
      Most of them are cheap/small engine, which IMHO, the US needs more of. We don’t ALL need to ride cbr600rr’s or vtx 1800’s….

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    I actually voted with my wallet in the latest ‘compact car wars,’ I bought one of the maligned 2012 Civics, I got my LX sedan with a 5spd manual as a low mile trade in at a very good price ($15k with 11k miles on it, in immaculate shape). I had test driven a lot of the competition, everything from Cruzes to Priuses to Sentras, but settled on the Civic. Despite all of the criticism, I am very happy with the car.

    I just drove it out to Indiana and back, and have some impressions, a few things that I never saw in the negative reviews.

    The seat is EXCELLENT. The cushion is very long, and provides great thigh support. This, combined with the telescoping wheel, allowed me to be as comfortable in the Civic as I am in the captain’s chair of my old MPV. I drove the 10 hours with only a few stops for gas, and was not fatigued in the least. The rear seat is also very good, the cushion is well off of the ground and has good thigh support, the angle of the backrest is good as well.

    The Eco mode when used with cruise control is a dream. Very well programmed, allowing the car to lose a bit of speed on small hills, maintaining very good MPG (I got 35 mpg on evey tank, driving at 73mph). The MPG-color-bars flanking the speedo seem gimmicky at first but are actually programmed pretty well, they know what gear you’re in, etc.

    The clutch is progressive and dead easy to use, the throttle doesn’t have that stupid rev-hang that has been plaguing a lot of newer cars. gearshift is typical Honda excellence. Throws are a longer than the Fit but the shifter has more weight and feels substantial going through the gates.

    A few negatives: road noise is worse than many rivals, the Cruze is a tomb by comparison. The dash has a rattle when transitioning from a very cold cabin to warming up as you drive, our Fit has the same issue. The hard plastic has a few scratches in it already from the PO. In the dark grey on beige interior, the plastics do not offend. In the light grey interior (I test drove an HF), they look awful.

    Lastly, I like that I have the good old port injected R18, with a plain jane manual transmission. I fully expect this car to last 20 years without any serious issues. And if I decide to sell it sooner, I know that resale will be exceptionally strong.

  • avatar
    ant

    I first noticed the decline of Honda when I bought my 2003 civic si hatchback.

    The electronic power steering was so fail that I hated driving the car. No arm rest. Grinding gears. Crappy heat and AC. Worst gas mileage than the heavier 01 4door accord that I had previously.

    They didn’t pay attention to detail with that car. at all.

    The electric steering has gotten better over the years, but it still isn’t anywhere near what it was as hydraulic. The Honda of yesteryear would have figured out how to let the driver adjust the amount of boost that it gives. But today, it’s the bean counters that decide what kind of steering to give the car.

    Something else I have noticed (even though I’ve never had one), is that the V6’s have gotten to be quite efficient. They have been refining these engines or something, cause they are just about as good as the 4 banger in the accords, without even getting DI yet.

    Anyways, I think that it is Toyota that has the most modern tech with their synergy drive systems….. I think that is what I will go with next time I buy a car.

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      Honda killed the hot hatch segment in America. They sold a waterdown version of the Civic Si with 15″ economy car tires, a detuned motor (didn’t want it to compete with the RSX Type S), smaller brakes and floaty suspension. The enthusiasts turned a blind eye to it and walked away voting with their money elsewhere in the Protege5 (cool looking 5 door hatch) and the Focus SVT (more power, 17″ summer tires and more fun). Now they bring us the Insight g1 and the CR-Z – a hyper miler 2 seater coupe that no one wants to drive except if they don’t like gas stations. But then you simply buy a $13k Fit and use the thousands you saved in purchase price to buy gas for it for a decade.

    • 0 avatar

      I have an ’08 Civic LX with the 5-speed, which I bought a year ago. The engine may not be all that powerful, but it’s extremely responsive, and the car gets great gas mileage (averages 38 on the road at a little over 70 mph). The handling is quite responsive, as well. The only bad part is the numbness of the steering.

      I recently drove an ’06 Insight. That thing was amazing. Sure, it doesn’t have any power, but the handling, steering, and steering feel were fantastic. I actually liked all that a bit better than the handling and steering my sister’s FR-S (5-speed).

  • avatar
    thornmark

    I think you missed what others see:
    http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/2013-honda-accord-sport-sedan-manual-long-term-test-review

    I still find it amazing that your reviewer missed the standard back-up camera in the Accord Sport. That’s impossible if you ever put the car in reverse. I mean, it’s like he didn’t drive the car at all.

    I actually subscribed to Consumer Reports because of that reviewer and boy did CR torpedo his pick, the Fusion. According to CR, Ford apparently made engines that manage to combine relatively mediocre performance with poor fuel economy. Plus they noticed unusually poor workmanship even for a new car.

    Clearly people have higher expectations for Honda than Ford but I think you’re missing the larger story here and that is that Ford is slipping and badly.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      “I still find it amazing that your reviewer missed the standard back-up camera in the Accord Sport.”

      Karesh?

      “The Accord also has a standard rearview camera . . . Accords EX and up have a second camera that provides a view of the passenger side blind spot at any speed . . .”

      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/comparison-review-2013-honda-accord-sport-vs-2013-ford-fusion-se

      I think one could surmise that the Accord would win a CR comparison from his conclusion:

      “Comparison tests generally favor well-rounded cars by summing scores in a wide range of attributes. Doing especially well in one or two areas can’t compensate for middling scores in others. In such tests, the Honda Accord will win. It bests the Ford in most categories. But in the areas that connect emotionally, how a car looks and how it feels, the Ford can be much more satisfying.”

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    It’s the same argument that happens with BMW, whether a company that appealed to driving enthusiasts is losing that appeal to its core fans, and I don’t see how it isn’t. I don’t think any of us have said that Honda’s sales are in serious in jeopardy (clearly they are not), but that the products are no longer as desirable as they once were. It’s not just because the competition is getting better (although they are), its because they are number and less engaging to drive. Has anyone who has driven a modern Honda and an older one felt differently? The build quality, ergonomics, and attention to detail also isn’t there. I remember when I was car shopping, sitting in an Integra, and I was blown away but the quality of the interior parts, and the simple logical nature in which everything was laid out, easy to use, and fell immediately to hand. I instantly felt comfortable and at home. I’ve driven the previous gen Civic (___-2011) and that interior felt cheap and was anything but user friendly.

    I also don’t see how you can argue that Honda has lost most of the cars that appeal to enthusiasts. When the only sporty Honda is the Civic Si, and nothing in Honda’s portfolio has a redline north of 7k rpm (I can’t think of anything, please correct me if I’m wrong), the carmaker that use to offer the NSX, S2000, Prelude, and Integra is not who they used to be. I think you establish very well that Honda likes to do their own thing, and that this has served them well in the sales department, but it doesn’t change the fact that a company that built its reputation and a lot of good will with buyers by offering simple, reliable, high quality efficient cars that didn’t ask you to check driving enjoyment at the door when purchased no longer really makes cars that offer that.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    My cousin who came to this country 5 yrs ago and had little money, needed a car so I knew this old couple who had a 1999 Accord,less than 50k miles, they kept it in great condition, always used the dealer for services, so when they put it up for sale I was gonna buy it,. but I let him have it instead and he’s had more issues, including transmission, A/C and other repairs that made me glad I passed it on to him, while my 98 Corolla, keeps on with 3 times the miles on the odometer.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Nobody is mentioning the mandatory government regulations that add weight and are expensive to implement, forcing economies elsewhere, like interiors. My ’83 Accord 4-speed hatch was fun to drive, but my sister’s 2008 Civic auto isn’t. the latter doesn’t even have stability control, now mandatory on all 2012 models.

    I wouldn’t bet against the possibility of future government regulations requiring ESC full time – no turning it off, as some TTAC reviewers now do. Government regulations have eliminated a lot of the tossability of cars, and the fun out of driving, and Honda was possibly just the first to be noticeably affected.

    • 0 avatar
      Freddy M

      You raise a good point, but all manufacturers are subject to the same restrictions. And by accounts from not only journalists, but also commenters here and elsewhere, Honda still falls short on driving enjoyement when compared to its competition.

      Companies like Mazda which is much smaller and much more affected by the financial sting of having to comply with said government regulations still consistently ends up with awards for “best performing (insert segment entry here).”

  • avatar
    Darkhorse

    I happened to notice two Honda Accords parked in front of my building every day. One is a Gen 4 (1990-1993) and the other is a 2012 V6. The older car is a wonder. Low belt line with an airy greenhouse. Tight sheet metal stretched over a body that could hold five people. Weighs 2700 lbs. I remember renting these and loved its tossable handling and visibility.

    The current Accord is a hog. Maybe a design like the Gen 4 could not be built today due to NTSC or EPA rules, but I think contrasting these two designs shows what happened to Honda’s mojo in the 90s.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    I don’t know where the Honda love comes from….. You hear their reliable, but I’ve heard direct from some owners otherwise.

    They’re far behind on engineering. When I buy a new car, I don’t go for all the “tech” or “infotainment”, but I don’t want to the car to be using the same platform and mechanicals from several years ago. If that was the case, I’d just buy a decent used car.

    Plus, their products. Look at the Ridgeline; it’s the sorriest excuse of a actual truck I think has ever been made. It’s made for tailgating yuppies; not people who really need a truck. FWD, IRS, it can’t tow anything worth a damn, or carry a pay load. People bought them, I don’t anybody personally, but I see them around here and there.

    Then there is the Pilot. Same as above.

    At one point we were thinking about a Fit. Seemed like a practical, simple, little car for the wife. But the prices seemed too high for the small cheap car it was (espicially with such a gutless engine) and when we finally got around to buying a new car much better had hit the market.

    A friend of mine had a 2-dr Civic. Of course, she was female, and she loved the car, but I never really got the appeal.

    IF the CR-Z has a decent, efficient engine, it might just persuade me as a great personal commuter car. But I won’t buy a Hybrid, and the price tag on that car is ridicolous for what it is.

    • 0 avatar
      Carrera

      Well, the Ridgeline is the truck for what 80% of the people due with trucks: go to Home Depot occassionally, or haul around a bed with empty air. If you like to go in swamps or go boulder crawling…not for you. If they gas consumption would have been better, the Ridgeline would have been one of the best trucks out there. As for the Pilot. The current generation is kind of ugly, but the previous one was one of the best selling mid-size SUV around ( not counting the rental Explorers or rental Chevys). I own a 2006 Pilot since new. I have about 90K miles on it…just oil changes, and no, the tranny did not explode.
      I really want to purchase a Passat Tdi in the near future, but my rational side says to stay away from the drama of owning a VW. For some reason I am drawn like a moth to light to the new Accord Sport Edition with 6 sp man transmission.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      The Ridgeline has comparable payload to all the other crew cab, short bed 1/2 ton offerings. They all range between 1550 and 1700 lbs. Ridgeline is 1580.

      Do you rage against the 5.0L version of the Raptor that is only rated at 900lbs? 4 biggish guys can max out the payload on that “real truck”.

  • avatar
    Mykl

    When I bought my car I essentially had three opions. Civic Si, Mazdaspeed 3, and GTI. Sporty compact cars in my price range. 15 years ago this would have been a no-brainer, Si all the way. Mazdas have always been a solid option, but the current 3 is just so horrible to look at (to my eye) that it was never really a legitimate contender.

    Enter the all new, refreshed 2010 GTI. Clean styling, nice to drive, comfortable to sit in, and as far as I can tell so far as reliable as any Honda (may not be true for everybody, but based on my sample size of ‘me’ the car has treated me well).

    I really want to want a Honda. I want to drool over the S2000 and view the Si as a legitimate budget sporty economy car option. I miss the Prelude and the Integra.

    I think the new Accord might be a step in the right direction. Let’s see where they go from here.

  • avatar
    EquipmentJunkie

    Remove Honda’s Top-3 volume vehicles and what are you left with? A product line with sales volumes that begin to mirror Mazda or Mitsubishi. Honda is not as powerful an automotive force as many think.
    I think that the Top-3 volume vehicles in Honda’s portfolio can fall into what I call Success Syndrome. These vehicles have done so well and are so important to the company that there is absolutely no margin for error. Ford fell into the same trap with their F150 revamp in ’97. There is no room for failure in market research, exterior design, recalls, options, or even the perception of quality. Why do you think that Honda reacted so quickly on a 2012 Civic revamp? They couldn’t afford for sales to dip even a few percent. The Accord is in dangerous territory. There are several close competitors that are within striking distance. Same with the CR-V. One misstep or recall and the long-term implications are dangerous. Take a look at Europe…Honda just cut 800 jobs in the UK. I feel a strategic partnership is in the offing.

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      The Accord and Civic no longer own the 2nd overall and 1st in retail sales (Toyota stuffs a lot of Camrys and Corollas to fleets to pad its numbers and often relies on those sales to be #1 in their respective categories). Honda has played placid on these cars for so long.

      I don’t see the CR-V in trouble as it has been quite a success these past 4-5 years and overtook the Escape a couple years ago to be the #1 selling CUV (and this is without the need for fleet sales which we all know the Escape is heavily sold to fleets).

      I look more beyond total sales figures as OEMs do not break out retail versus fleet sales. A retail sale has significantly more profit built into that sale which is often more important than the #s. Fleet sales are not a bad thing but relying on them too much cheapens your product as it makes the designers spend a lot of time looking to cut corners to make the fleet sale profitable as well and that then cheapens the retail car.

  • avatar
    jco

    that was a well-informed essay on the subject. by comparison, i thought the post about this same thing on Jalopnik yesterday was the usual enthusiast angle that maybe you’re talking about specifically.

    the Honda I miss is indeed the pre-2000s Honda. we have had, in the family, at least one of every generation of Civic from 1987 up through 2006. and yes, the 2006 kind of exemplifies the changes I’m not fond of. larger, heavier, less ‘soul’. and a lot of this is inevitable. as you said, buyers expect modern conveniences. they expect a car that’s relatively quiet.

    i have, in my long list of cars I’ve owned, 2 favorites that stand out. an early production S2000 and a 1989 Civic Si. these cars shared a feeling of a mechanical connection with the vehicle’s operation. the controls were both solid and effortless. the engines revved through the range quickly and with a sound that made you want to continue running up and down through the gears, even if you were stuck in traffic. somehow the electric steering in the S was perfect. not quite as good as the unassisted steering in the Si, though.

    and all of this, with the unstated promise that it would keep working, with maintenance, for a very long time.

    it felt like the engineers that made these cars were above the accountants and marketing when it came to who was listened to at the meetings. they did things they way they were trained by those who came before them. they made cars that were engineered to be fun, economical, and efficient. and they sold them that way. they may not have been as quiet, or as spacious or powerful as the competition. but they were Hondas.

    the new Honda tried to do this AND listen to the marketers and the accountants and it doesn’t work. “Key among these is an unshakable conviction – some would say bordering on arrogance – that whatever Honda does is the right way, the only way to do things. ” – yes. but, I would argue you cannot operate that way AND try to chase sales by listening to what the consumer wants. the old Honda made cars that were Hondas, and people did buy them for that reason. like you said, it was a “middle finger” to focus groups/press. they can’t be, and shouldn’t try, to be Toyotas. It feels like Honda is trying to be Toyota. and to get the Japanese car that feels focused on the driver and designed by engineers rather than marketing, you’re probably going to buy a Mazda.

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      I sadly sold my ’89 Civic to a good friend of mine who will use it for NASA’s Time Trials. I did the SiR conversion (what EDM and JDM got this car as stock) – with the a b16a2 swap and Integra suspension / brakes. It was an absolute blast to drive and reliable (did not start once in the last 5 years b/c of a blown fuse which I fixed in < 1 minute). I used it as my daily driver and track car (when I would instruct at HPDEs) for 5 years and replaced it with a BRZ.

  • avatar
    carguy

    What’s ails Honda is much the same as what ails BMW: middle age. Both companies fueled their initial success with smart and fun products that appealed to the young and young at heart. The problem is that the generation that used to love them is now older and Honda and BMW now make products to suit their new grown up needs. Why aren’t they trying to woo a new generation? Mostly because selling into their current market is mode profitable.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Honda is simply pulling a Toyota. They have ditched the fancy trickle down race technology and now just make basic cars that sell well. I’m sure its great for their bottom line, but an auto enthusiast it hurts to see them sell out in this way. Even my wife knows Honda makes nothing exciting these days. I’ve owned several Hondas, (two Civics and a Prelude) but honestly there is nothing in their lineup today or even over the last 10 years I would buy. The TSX was the only product we even considered, it still had some “Honda-ness” to it (light weight, peppy engine, sharp handling, logical interior).

    To me the easiest indentifer of what’s wrong at Honda/Acura are their dashboards – they were once works of perfection: simple in function & logical in arrangement and layout. But now they are mess of tiny buttons, funky lights and mismatched shapes. Forget the big, obvious things (double wishbone, lack of hatchbacks, no NSX halo)… if Honda can’t get the dash right then I don’t hold out much hope for them. Its sad.

  • avatar
    Advance_92

    Maybe the apathy of enthusiasts can be traced to the decision of these companies to design and sell cars specifically for the US market. Accords were built in Ohio since the early 80s but only in 1990s did they diverge from the Accords sold everywhere else. Toyota did the same, and now Subaru seems to be headed the same direction if the Outback is an indicator.

    I sat in an ILX at the Chicago auto show last week and thought it really did need its rear view camera because you sure can’t parallel park it looking out of the back window. More interestingly, it didn’t have a little change box for the driver. One of the first things I learned about Honda from my father in 1981 was that all cars had a little storage box because Soichiro Honda had to fumble for change at a toll bridge one time and decided all his cars should have space allotted for coins.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Japanese engineering, styling, component and build quality have declined sharply. A weaker yen, more and better competition, and the need to stay profitable without significantly increasing vehicle prices forced cost cuts.

    Honda’s climb-down from design and engineering excellence started with abandoning the Civic’s fine handling double-wishbone front suspension and hit bottom when the auto commentariat blasted the 2012 model. Consumer Reports deleted it from its recommended list! The previous version was plagued with faulty control arms, creaky clutch pedals, leaky shock absorbers, bad motor mounts, interior flaws and rattles and short-lived air conditioner condensers. Customer care descended into mediocrity.

    Hyundai is becoming what Honda used to be!

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Honda was once the maker of cars that looked great on paper but actually never lived up to the hype? Because that is what Hyundai is right now. On paper, they all look amazing, but their suspension tuning is terrible and their 274hp, 34mpg Sonata is barely faster than a Camry Hybrid while being considerably less efficient (Fuelly shows the turbo SE lingering in the mid to upper 20s while the 0.1sec slower to 60 Camry Hybrid averages over 38 mpg.)

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    There seems to be a concerted effort to keep this narrative going even though Honda’s most important car in the biggest segment of our car market is the best in its class again. Honda responded to people that know less than nothing about cars’ desire for acronyms they don’t understand the implications of with a new car full of said acronyms, and more besides, without messing up what was already the best midsizer to own and drive. They’ve a successful new CUV for Acura. Their naturally aspirated and bulletproof Civic Si is faster than the turbocharged disposable diapers from Ford and VW. Yes, it would be nice if Honda still built the sports cars nobody else can, but most Honda owners are probably just happy that their cars aren’t the theft targets of street racing trash and insurance rates are falling as adolescents go back to growing mullets and drinking domestic kool-aid again.

    • 0 avatar
      Loser

      “most Honda owners are probably just happy that their cars aren’t the theft targets of street racing trash”

      Yes, cause you never see a Honda with fart can mufflers, goofy rear wings, a hundred pounds of aftermarket ground effects…..Oh, wait….um, never mind.

      May want to check your facts on the Si vs Focus ST, and GTI. The Mazdaspeed 3 also outdoes the Si from a performance perspective.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Check Car and Driver’s performance numbers for the Si sedan against their recent comparison test of the GTI and Focus ST. It is quicker to 60 and leaves them for dead by 100. The MazdaSpeed 3 is still faster as far as I know, but long term tests of the MS 3 suggest it is about as disposable as they get.

    • 0 avatar
      PintoFan

      “Their naturally aspirated and bulletproof Civic Si is faster than the turbocharged disposable diapers from Ford and VW.”

      No, it’s not. In fact, it’s pretty much a worse car in all respects than the one it replaced. Cheaper interior, uglier, and now with a less responsive engine and worse brakes. Perhaps the “reliability” will still win over the paranoid appliance shoppers, but most people with taste have already migrated elsewhere.

  • avatar
    wsn

    “Now, one could make the case that the Optima and the Cruze are equal to their Honda counterparts”

    That someone must have watched too many American commercials and have a very short attention span.

    I LOL every time when someone thinks when the Cruze is comparable to the Civic. They said the same thing when Cavalier and Cobalt were introduced too.

    Honda on the other hand, is about long lasting quality and value. I can’t think of any Honda, 10 year or older, that’s not better than a Detroit competitor.

    As for the current model, we will know that in 2023. I fully expect the then 10 year old 2013 Civics beat the crap out of 2013 Cruzes.

    Actually, I first heard sayings like “Japanese cars are declining and domestics are just as good or better” in 1993. I moved to North America that year. And it’s been 20 years. Deep down, Americans want to support their home team, even when credits are not due. They say they are rational, but they are not. But it won’t change a thing, after all.

    • 0 avatar
      GarbageMotorsCo.

      When I was one of the hundreds of paid online troll for a Government Motors dealership a few years ago, those comments were basically textbook trolling. Actually sounds like you read one of my many on Temple of vtec……

      Ahhh, memories. How ignorant I was back then. Shame I wasted all those keystrokes on lies.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    Derek, this is better written (as usual) than the gen-Y hipster nonesense that Jalonik put up yesterday, but it still misses the mark. Honda is a target for the 20 something crowd because nobody wants to drive what their parents drive, no matter how good or popular it is. (“Generational-lapping”) Tell a kid that before the 90’s, Mercedes was on top of the heap and that Audi was pretty much a European Buick. They’ll probably find it hard to believe.

    And yes, generational changes have everything to do with the automotive landscape right now. What’s happening to Honda is happening to everybody. It’s not that there aren’t scores of Integra’s S2000’s and NXS’s any more…. there aren’t Celica’s, Surpra’s, RX-7’s,Probe’s,MX-6’s, 2nd gen Eclipse turbos, Stealth’s, and Firebirds anymore. What remains, the Mustang and Camaro, are broadly drawn boomer-nostalgia now.

    Honda is an easy target for “not as exciting” because they were once the leader. Truth be told, that label would be slapped on any company if they were in the same place. Consider this: the current Civic makes as much power, is more comfortable and gets better milage than the base version of the last Integra sedan…. the one that actually sold in volume, not the GS-R or the type R. That’s progress… give 1997 a peak at today’s Civic and they’ll be floored.

    Of course, nobody would be happy with that. When people say they want a well made and exciting car, they mean that they want a car that’s better made and more exciting than their neighbors. That’s human nature, and that’s what drives the marketing cycle, but as anybody who reads the news today knows, resources are getting more limited, climate change is becoming a bigger factor in our lives, and people aren’t getting any richer in the wake of the housing bubble.

    It’s all well and good to ask car companies to produce more exciting models, but by implication that means asking the car companies to produce more expensive to produce cars with lower potential unit volumes. In gross terms: “Give me my 5 second 0-60 car and lose money making it while you are at it.” You can criticize Lotus for trying to do the volume route to save it’s skin, and you can criticize mainstream middle market companies for not producing more niche market cars; both are asking the companies to take on more risk, especially when time and again consumers have demonstrated that such an assessment of risk is justified.

    So in a round about way; yes, Honda’s are boring. That’s missing the point. They’ve always been boring;the cars that we remember as exciting never accounted for a majority of the unit volume. Memory is a funny thing, because of those few exciting cars, we tend to remember all of the cars as being exciting, but the truth is, those mushy middle market cars, the ones that real people buy, are miles better today. So in another roundabout way, the “Honda is dead” trope has been beaten to death on on the car blogs. Honda was dead last year, Honda is dead this year, an Honda will be dead in perpetuity on Autoblog, but it’s time to look at what that means for the car industry as a whole instead of pining for cars that have no realistic chance of being built in this economic climate.

    • 0 avatar

      Stuntmonkey, thank you.

    • 0 avatar
      TW4

      “Give me my 5 second 0-60 car and lose money making it while you are at it.”

      What marginal cost is required to bump 4-cylinder displacement from 2.0L to 2.5L? or 1.6T to 2.0T? Immaterial. What marginal costs are required to stretch the wheelbase by 1 inch to move the engine slightly rearward? Immaterial. What is the marginal cost of designing a performance-oriented gearbox? Immaterial. What is the cost of putting 4wd on all vehicles? Nearly immaterial, according to Subaru pricing.

      The manufacturers could build affordable performance cars, and make a mint in the process, but it erodes the value of their options bundling strategies, and their luxury/sports segments. Car manufacturers specialize in making customers pay for the business the executives want.

      A decade ago, Honda didn’t follow the marketplace around, nor did they buy into conventional product planning. Instead, they tended to focus on core vehicles in core segments, and they would make products that were peerless. Unfortunately, Honda has turned into a follower. They build to Ridgeline and Pilot to avoid alienating a few thousand customers each year. They use the same bundling and optioning gimmickery. The CR-X successor weighs over 2600lbs. The Insight is now an inferior Prius clone.

      Doesn’t matter whether you are a prudish CR reviewer, hen-pecking Honda for using hard plastics in the new Civic, or a boy-racer who’s upset that the Si no longer revs to over 8000 rpm; Honda are lost.

      • 0 avatar
        nickoo

        This is where and largely why Mazda succeeds. Mazda doesn’t have a luxury brand to hold them back like all of the other regular car brands do. If the regular lineup gets too good, no reason to look at the higher priced models. Lincoln probably isn’t going to turn around and GM is going to end up killing buick with the new chevy line up

    • 0 avatar
      chicagoland

      I agree with stuntmonkey too.

      Some want a ‘project car’ cheap, but want ‘the other guy’ to pay for depreciation. So, ‘their cars’ get dropped due to low sales. Duh, they aren’t a ‘church of driving dynamics’.

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      On the contrary, there are plenty of affordable “fun” cars still around (with more coming): GTI, MazdaSpeed3, WRX, FR-S/BRZ, Miata, Focus ST, the upcoming Fiesta ST, the aforementioned Mustang and Camaro, the Challenger…heck, even Honda’s own Civic Si, while lacking the “character” of older versions, is still around.

    • 0 avatar
      number9ine

      Fantastic article, I agree with Stuntmonkey that this is a well-written analogue to the hot mess over on Jalopnik. I also see the point that what excites us about Honda is a relatively thin veneer over a “boring” but extremely successful past performance.

      Now even the veneer is almost completely gone. Honda’s purported death has less to do with the lack of Integras, Gen 1 CRXs and S2000s in the current lineup, and more to do with their near-total regression to the mean from a product standpoint. If Honda doesn’t differentiate their product and brand with something more substantial than an “H” badge and careful attention to value proposition then they’re no different from any other mainstream full-line car company. There’s no reason to love them anymore, no quirks or traits to admire or apologize for. With some limited exceptions, this is becoming the rule in today’s auto business.

      I’ve never loved Honda, but I’ve frequently admired their cars and their approach to building them. As a longtime VW enthusiast (I know, I know) I feel the regression every time I drive my wife’s ’11 Jetta, and I can only cure the sense of loss I feel by getting back into my ’10 GTI.

      I think we’ve reached “peak enthusiast automobile.” Horde whilst you may, friends.

  • avatar
    cowpens

    Honda lost its way by the time it delivered my 2002. Low initial and long term quality, breakdown prone. Honda did not manage to deliver a reliable or low trouble vehicle to me. I will not buy one next time. I have already bought non Hondas since. If this is the Honda way, they lost their way long ago. Dealer sales, hi price as if made of gold. Dealer service incompetent.

    My 2002 Odyssey pulled to the right from day one. Dealer said, “they all do that”. Bull. After 4 visits and one year, a botched tire rotation and two unhelpful wheel alignments, I found a service bulletin describing the solution. Done at last. All 5 of my engine transmission mounts crapped out and clunked. Could cost $$thousands at dealer. But I did it myself for hundreds. Never had all fail on any other car. Newer models with active mounts $300-500 parts only cost rear mount alone. Front part about $300 also. My rear pwr windows broke at yr 5. Never fixed them. Cost too much. Did not see any improvement in new parts. My sliding door sticks and has problems opening, closing. “They are all like that,” dealer says. B*. If so I never want do drive another one. Of course the tranny went slipping and grinding and failing early after changing ATF at 20K, 30K and every 7-10K miles after only with Honda stuff. Disgusting. The plastic underbody panels after transmission replacement flopped and clunked. It seems the dealer did not think all those fasteners for panels were needed. Must have saved them a bundle. Replacing fasteners myself saved another tedious employment curtailing dealer visit. Honda Odyssey is not a quality vehicle. Easy scratch interior plastics, road noise so I cannot hear the radio well until it distorts, bad quality radio. Turn up the radio is not the answer. Evap system failed. Ignition coil leaks oil. Several bolts holding valve covers were stripped out the first time I removed them to do the quite necessary valve adjustment. TB change required and done. Most Toyotas don’t need TB change. Nice quality, Honda. My much older Chrysler Minivan repair list is shorter, cheaper. I still own both.

    Have sampled a family member’s CRV. Ride not great. Tires seem to clomp along like Clydesdale feet. Maybe it’s the very large truck tires. Larger in size, wt capacity than the heavier Odyssey. Right rear seat rock hard. Rear visibility very poor. Maybe they are all like that. However I cannot believe that Soichiro prefers not to see what is behind. I do not love cutting off others just to have that “wonderful” blind to the rear Honda styling. Notice how much of the rear window is useless black on outside, covered by interior plastic on the inside. Gunslit is a good description.

    Maintained by the book, except transmission got alot more service than the book. Got a bad Honda vehicle. I am not even asking for a fun ride. A low maintenance reliable one would be a start. Which my Honda is not.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      Just like a bad quality reputation lasts a long time, so does a good one. But as you point out, Honda has just about used up their reservoir of good will.

      And since their dealers largely operate in the mindset of how good quality used to be, the “they all do that” answer is common. Those problems must be in the mind of the owner rather than real ones that must be fixed.

      Apparently Parkinson’s law applies in Japan too….

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      The Odysseys of that era are famous for their crappy trannies. Honda eventually got them sorted out, about 2005 I believe.

      My ’07 Element has required nothing but fluids (and a recalled master cylinder cap) in 70,000 miles. I’m not a big fan of their larger offerings, but they know how to build a solid small car.

  • avatar
    TW4

    Honda’s decline started at the beginning of the new millennium with the roll out of FIA Super 2000 and Super 1600. The formula was practically custom-made for Honda; high-revving naturally-aspirated lightweight 2.0L or 1.6L 4-cylinder engines, powering everything from rear-wheel-drive sportcars (S2000) to front-wheel-drive touring cars (Civic SI). Honda put all of their eggs into the Super 2000 basket, but the new formula, which started out with so much promise, was quickly mired in political infighting about regulations. Rear wheel drive BMWs and diesel Seats were allowed into WTCC. Variable valve timeing regulations never saw the light of day. The minimum weight was too high, which allowed clumsy automakers to fix weight distribution with ballasting. The 2.0L GT class never materialized. The 2.0L Super 2000 rally class was never used for the top WRC class. It was a disaster for Honda.

    Two-liters. Four-cylinders. High-revving. Variable valve timing. Lightweight. These are all Honda traits, and they were excited to develop their identity further in international motorsport competition. When the FIA butchered the negotiations and the class regulations, Honda recoiled, and they began to obsess about the wrongness of the FIA and other automobile manufacturers, not the rightness of Honda’s design and engineering. The motorsport problems continued getting worse when the FIA froze F1 engines, and MotoGP stripped Honda of the rulebook.

    Racing is an existential endeavor for Honda. In the beginning, they beat everyone at their own game. When Honda began to write the rules as a powerful and influential manufacturer, they were stunned to find that no one played Honda’s game the way Honda had played their games in the past. They still haven’t recovered, and their diplomacy in motorsports and production vehicles has been getting increasingly worse.

  • avatar
    George B

    In my opinion, what Honda lost was the “simplify” theme. Old Hondas had a very simple and logical user interface combined with a low beltline that made them super easy to get used to on the first test drive.

    The mass market Accords and Civics never were sports sedans. What they do offer is a fairly nice medium price family sedans with manual transmissions still available as an option. They also offer 2 door models in a market where competitors only sell 4 door sedans.

  • avatar
    svan

    Honda’s heritage is in small, efficient engines. Remember when the NSX was a star for getting 100hp per L of displacement. They played this into a strength in motorcycles, marine (where they are still the best engines), and cars, with amazing engines that you could just rev the nuts off of. My Honda CB750 motorcycle redlines out at 9500 RPM, and I love to take it there. I remember well the leathery purr of my sister’s Acura Legend v6. Now that was a fun car to flog. Mid-90’s Preludes still turn my head.

    The issue for me as a (Canadian) car buyer is that they are out of the hatch market and seem to have given up on driving dynamics. All they had to do is tweak the marketing and the feature set of the Si and Si-R hatches and they would sell mountains of them here.

    I will never forget the TTAC comment that said (of scion): Of course’s there’s a market for interesting, fun to drive cars with Toyota reliability. We used to call those Hondas.

  • avatar
    johnny ringo

    When Honda automobiles debuted in the 70’s, under the inspired leadership of Sorichoro Honda their cars were indeed great. Honda still builds good automobiles, but Honda’s leadership has been replaced by committee and concensus. A number of things I feel are at work–in the 70’s Honda automobiles were purchased mainly by 20 and 30-something aged drivers who have now matured and frankly their requirements are not the same as in the 70’s. To a certain extent, Honda has been following their customers as they age-like Oldsmobile, Buick-which is not necessarily a good thing. The rise in value of the Japanese Yen certainly hasn’t helped matters and has resulted in a cost cutting throughout their vehicles to remain price competitive.
    Also, the domestic automakers have improved the quality of their vehicles–the Japanese automakers no longer have the edge on quality they once possessed.

    • 0 avatar
      kps

      I’m not sure the enthusiast market today would actually buy a car with a 50hp 1.1L engine, 4-speed manual or 2-speed automatic transmission, 12-inch wheels, and vinyl seats.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    What I miss about old Hondas simply amounts to their basic but elegant styling and their simple interiors, but thats a critcism that I can pass for all automakers.

    I for one like that Hondas are managing to achieve reasonable performance and gas mileage why becoming more spacious, have any of you tried sitting in a late 80’s Civic?

    At the same time, it’d be nice if Honda didn’t use todays narrow-minded “give the customer what they want in accordance to our surveys, NOTHING MORE” strategy, I like having multiple bodystyles to pick from and more colors than “silver, blue, and black”, I like cars that have the little extra touches and well thought out interiors.

    That and the new NSX looks like a lousy Audi R8 copy, gimme a V6 MR anyday over some hippy hybrid 4WD super-duper GTR eating monkey mobile.

  • avatar
    sastexan

    The current gen Odyssey (and previous gens) overall engineering has been and still is far ahead of the competition. The simplicity of the “magic seat” 3rd row, the flexible 2nd row and the lowest weight of the “mini”vans puts Honda far ahead of ChryCo, Toyota, Kia. Our Odyssey has only had a few problems – mostly supplier related (alpine nav screen, battery monitor) as the drivetrain is fairly ancient – however, more than competent for a hauler.

    Honda just chose to sink Ody development money into the functionality of the design, rather than drivetrain on this generation. To me, that’s focusing the engineering dollars on where the consumer cares the most.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    Tuners have an axe to grind, since the supply of used Integras is drying up. So, they complain and say “Honda has lost it”. The recent sales #’s and profits don’t say so.

    With all the saftey regulations, can’t expect a 1984 CRX to be sold anymore. Reality is majority of new car buyers are not ‘tuners’ looking for their next project, to weave through freeway traffic and with a flatuent exhaust.

    The tsunami may have hurt Honda 2 years ago, but they are back on their feet.

  • avatar
    slingshot

    Well, I have had zero mechanical problems with my 08 Honda Accord EX- L V-6 with 120,000 miles. Runs on 3 or 4 cylinders on the highway. Never been back to the dealer. Just routine and scheduled maintenance and I replaced brakes and tires. I get 25 mpg all year long.
    I laugh when I see these little cramped crap boxes with turbos like the Verano get less or the same mpg. See the review here. Per the new Auto Week, the new Fusion AWD with a 4 cyclinder engine gets 20 mpg. Very comfomfortable ride, roomy, sufficient power, etc. Its been on C & D’s best car list for about 20 years. Only negative is the noise level.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    I drove a 2010 Civic (DX-G – fairly basic) for 2 years and 72k kms – for what I needed at the time, it was a phenomenal little car. Efficient, problem-free (well, except for a wiper spring coming off when I pulled too hard on a rather cold day – reinstalled under warranty), competent and engaging to drive, and everything just sort of worked. Even with the Spaceman Spiff looks, the controls were well laid-out, and felt nice to use (especially that shifter). It wasn’t a premium car, but then again, I didn’t expect it to be.

    And except for the new Focus, I’m not sure there’s a compact I’d rather have. I know the Mazda3 is supposed to be fantastic, but I wasn’t all that impressed by the one I drove (to be fair, it was a rental-spec GX with an automatic), and they don’t exactly age well. The Sentra’s been a non-entity for almost 20 years. I’d rather take the bus than drive a Corolla. The Cruze is pleasant, but hardly thrilling. The Koreans are respectable appliances, but still have a few rough edges. And the Golf’s more efficient engines are optional (plus, quality decline or not, I’m still trusting the Honda to be cheaper than the VW long-term).

    And I get the same vibe for the mid-sizers – the Accord (even the outgoing generation) has a lot of the same strengths as the Civic, in a considerably bigger package. Honda didn’t necessarily lose anything, some of their strengths just became irrelevant.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    Yes, perhaps Mazda is catering to the performance car spirit of the “old Honda”. Unfortunately, this may be seen as contributing to Mazda’s current problems. At the North American International (Detroit) Auto Show, it pained me to see Mazda’s display dominated by an interactive simulator–the same one they had two years ago, showcasing the same cars (including the old style Mazda 6 and the discontinued RX-8). Because they couldn’t afford to update it.

  • avatar
    chrishs2000

    And this is why I’ll be keeping my 2003 Accord V6 6MT (230k miles) and my 2003 S2000 (95k miles) until they die.

  • avatar
    ceipower

    Back in the day , say 1975 until about 1990,when a Honda idea flopped , it was quickly fixed. Honda wasn’t perfect , but they were very quick to recognise a failure and had a desire for perfection. Not so today. Example Acura. The change from names to letters cost them dearly in sales and confusion…still does. The unbelievable beak styling that continues to mildly tone down year after year rather than admit it’s a dismal failure. Acura sales and dealerships have tanked since all this nonsense started and Honda just won’t deal with it. Then there’s the Honda Insight…..Would Mr. Honda have said “Lets build a HyBred that gets significantly less MPG than the Prius”? I think not. Face it , Honda is no longer run by people who are comitted to building the best then can. Inovation, not any longer. IT wasn’t until the 2012 Civic got panned that it decided it had to do something….now what about the rest of Honda? The NSX is one ugly beast…HOnda just loves that Acura “Beak” look even on the new NSX. . Mr. Honda would not approve. Styling is not the only problem either, reliannce on ever more outside suppliers of questionable quality is also taking a toll. But that’s another story.


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