Honda’s 2014 Odyssey doesn’t have any of the stuff that enthusiasts care about. Never mind the fact that it’s a minivan, but there’s no powertrain upgrades or shiny rims for its midcycle refresh. But you know what it does have? A vacuum cleaner. Honda partnered with ShopVac to create a vacuum cleaner for the Odyssey, one that can run indefinitely with the engine on, or for as long as 8 minutes with the engine off. If you have small children or pets, this is a god send. I won’t label it a game changer or say that Honda is about to dominate the minivan market, but it is going to sell a lot of buyers on the showroom floor when they see this.
It’s funny that despite their astounding sales success and frequent ingenuity, the automotive press persists with the “Honda has lost its way” narrative. The CR-V is the top selling crossover. The Civic is the best selling compact car, and the third best selling car in the land 0 the Accord was in second place, behind the Toyota Camry. The Odyssey is the second best selling minivan, right behind the Dodge Grand Caravan. Among the top selling vehicles in the United States last year, three of the top 10 were Hondas, more than any other OEM. And they did it barely any fleet sales.
The CR-V is a great example. It frequently gets taken to task by the automotive media for being “boring/soulless/an appliance/whatever demeaning adjective” but I’ve long maintained it has three items that effectively sell the car to buyers; a standard backup camera, one-touch rear folding seats and a cargo floor that is at knee level. No amount of Skyactiv technology, stick shifts or European inspired handling can make up for those three things, not when all of them are directly functional in the context of grocery shopping or picking up the little ones from daycare. The proof is in the sales charts. On the other hand, it’s an interesting reflection on how relevant the automotive press is to the average consumer and their needs. “Not at all” looks to be the answer.
Honda’s lineup may be boring, sterile and unattractive to the people who bought Integra GS-Rs in 1995. But for the people actually in the market for a new car, these are the things that make them sign on the dotted line. I may have lost faith that we’ll ever see another CRX or S2000, but if Honda keeps up this sort of ingenuity, they will be around long after other niche makers fall by the wayside during the industry’s inevitable consolidation.