By on September 8, 2017

Adam Levine and James Valentine with Honda Civic

While Honda has a long and storied automotive history, it has lost much of its luster in recent years. We won’t fault the Accord, as many of us have deemed it miraculous, nor the CR-V, which continues to gain sales momentum as the rest of the industry slows. But something definitely went wrong.

Pinpointing the first misstep is difficult, however. It might have been that we became accustomed to decades of repeated success, followed by a series of middling models that weren’t bad but showcased limited progression in the new millennium — past Civics being a prime example. Maybe it started with the sudden influx of recalls, kicked off by a reputation-crippling 11 million units equipped with Takata’s infamous and extremely dangerous airbags. Perhaps it was when Honda thought it would be a good idea to replace a simple volume knob with a touch-sensitive slider or its untenable partnership with Maroon 5 and Nick Cannon in 2013.

We could speculate endlessly. But the point is that Honda knows it screwed up somewhere along the line and has become trapped by a more stifling version of the methodology that once made it great. It’s now seeking a way out. 

“There’s no doubt we lost our mojo — our way as an engineering company that made Honda Honda,” Chief Executive Takahiro Hachigo told Reuters in an interview.

Hachigo, who joined Honda in 1982 as an engineer, witnessed the company’s return to Formula One and its sixth consecutive Manufacturers’ Championship win in 1991. But he was also around for its more recent troubles with longtime F1 partner McLaren. With no wins to its name for the current season, the team is thinking about ditching Honda as its engine supplier.

The CEO also watched Honda’s sedans progress from something that helped to redefine their respective segments in North America to safe, boring appliances of conveyance. Having taken leadership in 2015, Hachigo wants to see a return to form for the company — a culture that focuses more on innovation and risk-taking than cost-cutting and investor appeasement. He claims to have recruited a handful of engineers, managers, and product planners that share his vision and will help him realize it.

Their consensus is that Honda fell victim to Japan’s “monozukuri culture,” which literally translates into “making things.” Being preoccupied with the bottom line and production efficiencies certainly didn’t hurt the company’s finances, but Hachigo and co. have no nostalgia for the period where executives exerted so much control over research and development.

“The upshot was, as we obsessed about Toyota and beating it in the marketplace, we started to look like Toyota. We started to forget why we existed as a company to begin with,” Honda R&D President Yoshiyuki Matsumoto explained.

Takeo Fukui, Honda’s chief executive from 2003 to 2009, was the first to tighten the reins of product development. He was followed by Takanobu Ito, who further consolidated the product-design phase by moving several senior posts in the tech division to its corporate headquarters in Tokyo.

In the Reuters interviews, Honda engineer Mitsuru Horikoshi explained how this trend manifested itself in an ill-fated redesign of the Civic. “Right from the get-go, the program was about making cost savings in real terms,” Horikoshi recounted.

2013 Honda Civic with Nick Cannon

Ito had already decided that the ninth-generation model would reuse many components and systems from the previous generation to save on costs. Taking those factors into account, Horikoshi finished an initial draft by February 2008 and a more detailed mockup the following April. However, as unforeseen production costs arose from increased gasoline prices and a steel shortage, engineers tweaked the design to improve the car’s fuel economy.

By June of 2009, the team sought management approval for the Civic. Ito immediately told the engineers to make the car smaller and cheaper to produce — giving them only till the end of that month to complete the redesign.

“With one blow of a cost chopping knife, Ito basically told us to take our design back. It’s just unheard of. It was unprecedented,” Horikoshi said.

By the time his team finished the Civic, Horikoshi noted that they were six months behind schedule and $200 (per unit) short of their target unit cost. “I already had my pants down to my ankles — nothing more to shed,” he explained.

Another senior R&D member criticized the period as an era when Honda “lapsed deeper into a bunker mentality, and that translated into our products. It was cut, cut, cut, and it cheapened our cars.”

The end result was a Civic that didn’t receive a lot of love from the community. In addition to middling sales, the ninth-generation of the model saw the discontinuation of the Type R and an Si variant many enthusiasts saw as inferior to its predecessor. Matsumoto says that’s not what Honda wants to be known for (and may be why we saw the Type R return after Hachigo took over as CEO).

“We have to be allowed to go wild at times. If you operated a technology center only from an efficiency perspective, you’d kill the place. Which is exactly what happened at Honda. We don’t want headquarters people telling engineers what to do,” he said.

[Images: Honda]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

71 Comments on “The Lost Decade: Honda Exercises Hopeful Humility and Acknowledges Mistakes Made...”


  • avatar

    “replace a simple volume knob with a touch-sensitive slider”

    I’m one of those reviewers who ragged Honda about the lack of a volume knob for the audio system on the Fit but unlike the vast majority of reviewers, I actually have a Honda Fit with the aforementioned touch-sensitive slider. Since there are control buttons on the steering wheel, it’s really no problem in actual use. Also, the touchscreen control has up and down buttons in addition to the slider, which work even when the slider isn’t active, and if you need to mute, there’s a power switch.

    At most a minor annoyance and if you think about the slide potentiometers and tiny buttons that a lot of car stereos had in the 1980s and 1980s, it’s no big deal.

    • 0 avatar
      tod stiles

      So there are three ways to adjust the volume. And you just turn it off to mute the radio. I guess I’m one of the few that see this as a problem.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I’ll disagree with you, Ronnie…I shopped for Fits and Civics last fall. It wasn’t a deal killer, but it was enough of a turnoff that I actually came to prefer the Civic LX because it had actual buttons on its’ radio.

      • 0 avatar

        My point is that what appears to be a turnoff to a reviewer or someone cross-shopping a car, in actual use turns out to not be a big deal.

        To be honest, I wish Honda used some of the money they saved on not having a volume knob (and potentiometer and associated components) to spec better tires than the slippery OEM Firestones that came on my Fit.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      I also have to disagree here. While it is a small issue, it’s a nagging one. I use the volume knob quite frequently — more than ignition, more than headlights, more than wipers, but less than turn signals (although probably more for those who don’t bother to use turn signals).

      It’s just bad design to keep reminding the driver to work around a minor flaw.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    “I already had my pants down to my ankles — nothing more to shed,” he explained.

    The man does not mince words.

  • avatar

    What a fun color scheme on that Civic for ease of wheel rotations!

  • avatar
    volvo

    I wonder if a type R spec Civic packaged to look pretty much like the vanilla Civic sedan (except for functional parts) might not find a decent audience. No boy racer paint or body parts. Just a subtle Type R logo on the trunk.

    The Accord has just become too big and bloated to offer much. And as far as I can tell the “sport” version of the Accord is almost functionally identical (except for larger wheels and “sports tuned suspension} to the regular sedan and just tarted up with “sport” accessories.

    • 0 avatar
      kosmo

      Yes, or at least an audience of one (me), especially if it included some 50 or higher series sidewalls and sound insulation — I’ve hear the tire noise is pretty bad compared to its competitors.

      In fact, I think I read it on this very site!

    • 0 avatar
      talkstoanimals

      You have articulated my exact thoughts on the Type R. If one could be had with the suspension and motor but without the Fast and Furious wings and gewgaws, I’d be a buyer tomorrow. But as an adult, I wouldn’t be caught dead in the current model. Something like what Porsche did with the 911 R would be awesome for the Civic Type R.

    • 0 avatar
      quasimondo

      Previous Type R’s didn’t look that gaudy. I really don’t know why the went full on boy racer with this one.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Interesting to read about this, as a 4 year owner of a 2012 Civic LX Sedan. It definitely did not inspire any sort of passion or emotion in driving the car, although to be fair the shifter was excellent and the engine fantastically smooth. It was also impressively roomy feeling, especially in terms of width, the door cards were essentially scalloped out. So much so, that you could literally feel the door card bow inwards slightly with your arm when you opened the window. A very lightweight car as well, 2650lb curb weight as I remember it. Fuel economy was indeed very good, easily beating 35mpg in a mixed commute, and exceeding 40mpg on several trips. Having said that, I’ve been in several rentals since then that easily matched or beat that efficiency without needing to be featherweight tin cans.

    At least it retained good resale, and I was able to sell it for $11k (bought used with 11k miles for $15k) after 4 years and 43k miles of use. Everyone slammed the ’12 for a cheap interior, but having sat in a new ’16, I’d argue the new car is actually worse in a few ways on the inside (cloth quality and stitching).

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      My mom traded from a 2008 to a 2012 and hated it.

      One thing I remember about that generation of Civic was the abysmal CVT. I tried a ’15 out and it was slow and buzzy. The CVT spent about 95% of its time trying to figure out what ratio to use.

      Just awful. So bad, in fact, that a Corolla felt better to me.

      The new one feels vastly more refined.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Maybe they should return to the “We Make It Simple” theme of the 1970s, in terms of cleaner exterior designs, improved ergonomics, better warranties, and even more creative financing/ownership models – all intended to make owning a Honda a simple experience.

    http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/media/jpg/oaaaarchives/med/AAA7636.jpg

    In my case, my one Honda experience was marked by a lemon car serviced by an arrogant dealer and pompous corporate attitude. If Honda wants to win me back as a customer, I would need assurance that the company will actually stand by its product with uncommon customer service.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      “In my case, my one Honda experience was marked by a lemon car serviced by an arrogant dealer and pompous corporate attitude. If Honda wants to win me back as a customer, I would need assurance that the company will actually stand by its product with uncommon customer service.”

      You and me both. After many MANY years of my owning Honda cars, and having my family buy Honda cars, and having bought the single most expensive vehicle my dealer had ever sold at the time, and having my Honda cars serviced at the dealer, and having Honda’s vaunted goodwill policy cover many things that shouldn’t have happened and clearly separating themselves from their competition in regard to customer care and satisfaction (boy oh boy, do I have GREAT stories about how well Honda treated me over the years)…

      …American Honda Motor Manufacturing told me to go blow when the transmission in my 02 Odyssey went south, with 7 years on the road and 73K miles of my wife tooling around town with the kids.

      (And we all knew and know that every one of these things was junk, that Honda designed not only one transmission but its follow up 5 speed unit so badly, they might as well call themselves East Chrysler. Honda knew it, the public knew it, it was no mystery.)

      And this after American Honda Motor Manufacturing had spent YEARS replacing those faulty 4 and 5 speed junk transmissions for anyone who asked. My dealership was replacing ten a WEEK at one time. But no, I came to them AFTER the economy crashed–and they had pulled back 100% on their goodwill program.

      And their response was exactly like their malaise cars of the time: we don’t care anymore, go blow.

      I repaired that van on my own, and still have it for in-town truck-like duties. I am about to spend huge amounts of money on new vehicles, including a van, and I would personally like to inform American Honda Motor Manufacturing that they will get none of it–that Toyota will get every dime of my business.

      The only thing that would make this story better is for me to tell the handful of absolutely superb Honda goodwill stories I have, stories that truly defined why Honda earned the business in the 80s and 90s and why people make fun of GM and Chrysler and Ford. I told my stories to everyone, to reinforce why they should buy Honda. They would provide superb context to what American Honda has become since.

      And now I’m telling my transmission/go blow story to everyone. Good show, Honda. You really took care of your business in 08-09, didn’t you. You must have saved yourself, what–$1500 real dollars in denying my transmission claim.

      • 0 avatar

        My 08 MDX spit up a torque converter, luckily, at 68k miles. Covered-also got a free ATF change…Honda changed ATF during the transmission debacles. My dealer did a rush job, forgot one $12 gasket, so it went right back after leaving a puddle in the driveway. The second time the job was done it was mostly correct-I will never go back to that dealer for anything but the parts counter….but at least it spit at 68, not 72k. I found a better Acura store, and the Torque Converter was a known issue….

        The rest of the car has had mostly Honda fabled reliability. One bad bluetooth module, and the end links/sway bushings look like they were borrowed from the Fit, so they last 35k miles. Luckily they are cheap and easy to DIY…..less stuff than my German or US of A cars.

        Acura did cheap out on the Cats. I had to eat two, when they up and died around 90k, just out of Fed Warranty. Worse, here in NY you have to buy the OE, no one sells aftermarket (we adopted a lot of CA emissions regs). There was a recall on the cats, but magically my car was a few VIN digits off.

        Oh, and we have an 80’s Si in the family, and a 98 TL.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      the 4- and 5-speeds were still the Hondamatic sliding-gear design, no? What actually fails on them?

      • 0 avatar
        WheelMcCoy

        True, Honda did not use the planetary gear set. Rather, they designed their own to avoid patent fees.

        There was a dark period when Honda was known for its “glass” transmissions. Some gears could not take the gunk build up and heat, and would break. Half the failures happened under 90,000 miles. Of that group, one in five broke under 70,000 miles. And the customers were treated poorly.

        https://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/08/honda-transmission-problems-seem-to-persist/?mcubz=1&_r=0

        • 0 avatar
          jalop1991

          “One in five break down before the odometer hits 70,000 miles. Many formerly brand-faithful owners write they won’t be buying a Honda again anytime soon.”

          And that was written in 2011. Here we are in 2017, and I’m still telling the story–and willing to spend $100K on cars that do NOT have the “Honda” (or “Acura”) name anywhere on them.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        JimZ, the Honda automatic transmission design is pretty hard on automatic transmission fluid and Honda required fluid with a unique spec. The fluid starts to get dark after about 3 years. My theory is that the design was OK for smaller cars with 4 cylinder engines, but that sliding gear configuration doesn’t have enough space for larger diameter clutches for larger vehicles with a V6. A coworker managed to get about 150k miles out of a replacement “glass” B7XA in a V6 Accord by religiously doing an ATF drain and fill every two years. There’s no pan or filter so there’s not much extra maintenance beyond drain and fill. I added a Magnefine magnetic inline filter in the fluid lines to the radiator. There are some tiny screens associated with the shift solenoids that sometimes need to be cleaned.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          I’m not interested in your “theory” (wrong word, by the way.) I asked “what actually breaks on these transmissions?”

          • 0 avatar
            George B

            JimZ, the clutches associated with 2nd gear fail with the symptom of delayed/hard upshift from 1st to 2nd, especially when cold. Honda had a retrofit where they rerouted some of the transmission fluid from the radiator to the top of the transmission. Honda also changed to a synthetic ATF. However, since any competent transmission shop is going to replace all the clutches and the torque converter when the transmission is torn apart, I’m not so sure that other parts of the transmission wouldn’t also fail prematurely. The burned transmission fluid also sometimes clogs the wire mesh screens at the shift solenoids. The rebuilt transmissions survive in the Acura TL and Honda Accord V6, but not in the Odyssey minivan.

          • 0 avatar
            psychoboy

            I missed this the first time around, so I’ll attempt to answer it now.

            The short answer is that the fluid paths inside the transmission case fails to properly lubricate/cool the second gear clutch pack. This allows the clutch plates to scorch, glaze, and eventually fail, resulting in massive gear slipping issues, hard shifts, and finally, no forward movement.

            In the early 00s, Honda realized they had a problem in the V6 accords and 2nd gen odysseys (which followed the TCU woes of the mid 90s accords, and the myriad of problems of the slapshift 5th gen preludes and acuras) so they issued a bulletin that routed fluid from the cooler lines to an inspection port to pray and spray the 2nd gear set. I’m sure this band aid was done as a “just get these stupid things out of warranty” measure…which blew up spectacularly, because it acknowledged there was a problem.

            Meanwhile, the aftermarket rebuilders saw an opportunity to build a better mousetrap, so one actually fixed the internal plates to route fluid where it was supposed to go. They offered a warranty with their rebuilds and Honda took notice, eventually having that company supply their warranty reman transmissions. Honda started putting these boxes in their odyssey vans and accords from 06-09 or so, until they decided that every vehicle that was going to be fixed under warranty had been. The aftermarket supplier then started selling the leftovers thru a major rebuilder supply chain, and you can still buy one today if you really want to. This same rebuilder actually got a contract to rebuild four different transmissions for Honda over the last decade or so, the 4 and 5 spd found in the v6 Hondas, as well as a couple Acura boxes.

            So far as I know, the company is no longer making new rebuilds for Honda, but they have dozens of ready-to-go remans sitting in a warehouse about a half mile from my house.

            there are also lots of rebuilders that merely swap in new plates and clean everything up, and those transmissions will die the same death their fathers did. If you have a rebuilt/reman trans in your vehicle, I don’t know how to tell if it’s a good aftermarket reman built by ATC, or a crappy platejob done by Bob’s Autos down the street. Similarly, there’s no real way to tell the difference between a factory installed time-bomb and a dealer installed Honda reman, if they are both currently operational.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      Your experience is why I personally will never consider a Honda automobile nor a lawnmower nor any other Honda product. Arrogant and pompous doesn’t really come close to describing Honda.

    • 0 avatar
      18726543

      I can vouch for this transmission madness. I was an Acura tech between 2001 and about 2005. In the latter 3 1/2 years of my service there I replaced 103 transmissions from TLs and CLs (2 or 3 from MDXs, but those were mostly torque converter issues). The youngest transmission I ever did had a hair over 14,000 miles on it. After Honda was aware of the issue they did extend the warranty period on these to I believe 5 years and 100,000 miles, but it’s no excuse for the poor design, and their idea of “good will” became “you pay the labor, we’ll pay the parts”. We got about 8.5 hours to swap out a box at customer pay rate, about 6 hours to swap one out warranty, and lemme tell ya, by about the 15th one I had a box swap down to right about 2 hours. I’d say about 90% of the transmissions I replaced were done at the warranty rate, but I still made lots of money on those. Our backlog got to the point where eventually my service writer said we could make time-and-a-half on a box swap if we came in and did it on a Saturday morning. I’d do 2 between 8AM and noon and leave with 18 hours in for the day. Paddle that gravy boat!

      Psychoboy: If you want to tell a factory-installed time-bomb from a factory rebuild, look at the front of the trans case for a VIN plate. When these cars left the factory the transmission had a VIN plate on it that matched the vehicle. When a box got swapped in the VIN plate went with the transmission back to be rebuilt.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    “With one blow of a cost chopping knife, Ito basically told us to take our design back. It’s just unheard of. It was unprecedented,” Horikoshi said.

    Another senior R&D member criticized the period as an era when Honda “lapsed deeper into a bunker mentality, and that translated into our products. It was cut, cut, cut, and it cheapened our cars.”

    I’ve been saying that, to the gnashing of teeth of many Honda fanbois here, Honda (and Acura) have been hollowed out, making cheap, far worse vehicles for the last decade than ever before, soiling their history and squandering their legacy and goodwill.*

    There’s no compelling reason to pick nearly any Honda vehicle over many competitors, often much better ones at lower prices, today.*

    And now, Honda continues the idiocy with wide-scale rollout of CVT transmissions and turbocharging of all the their things.

    *Tim Cain’s unbelievable, magnificent, impeccable, faultless and flawless Odyssey excluded.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      With no due respect to Tim Cain, I am going to buy the demonstrably older design (2011?) Toyota Sienna, because (a) it has those cool lounge chair recliner middle row seats, (b) it has power third row, and (c) it’s not a Honda (or a Kia).

      Tim Cain should live with a V6 Honda for more than a week, so he can experience the glory that is VCM.

      It’s like American Honda has chosen “head goes in sand here” as a specific business strategy.

    • 0 avatar
      johnds

      I drive a 2007 Accord with 187,000 miles and we have a 2003 Accord with 265,000 miles. The 2003-2007 Accord was designed before this era. We just bought a 2006 Accord so we could avoid VCM on the V6.

      The 2006-2011 Civic was also a great car.

      • 0 avatar
        jalop1991

        “I drive a 2007 Accord with 187,000 miles and we have a 2003 Accord with 265,000 miles. The 2003-2007 Accord was designed before this era.”

        Except, the junk transmission issue STARTED with the MY1998 V6 models.

        The malaise started earlier during engineering, and appeared to the public right about then.

        Let’s face it: Honda’s crown jewel has always been the 4 cylinder, manual transmission car. Everything they’ve done outside of that starting in MY1998 has been junk. Even the hybrids. I know, I owned one–a 2003 Civic Hybrid with manual transmission. Its only saving grace was that it didn’t have the CVT, which self-destructed before 100K miles.

        The farther they go outside their core competence of 4 cylinders/manual transmission, the worse the cars are. Overall the 4 cylinder cars that are naturally aspirated and have planetary gearset auto transmissions are probably a decent bet. CVT? Junk. Oh, now we’re turbocharging? Can’t wait to see that after 5 years.

        And V6? There was a very, VERY narrow time period recently when those weren’t bad. By 2005 they had sorted out the 5 speed transmission, and they hadn’t yet done VCM. The moment they moved to VCM and/or more gears on the transmission, and outsourcing their transmissions, they turned to pure junk again.

        Honda got scared of Kia and started cutting ALL costs to the bone, thinking they couldn’t price their cars at any sort of premium over Kia if they wanted to compete. They are now living in the world they created.

        Back in 2005, for example, if Honda had gone the Apple route and taken the high road and marketed themselves on their past laurels and told the world, “we really don’t care what anyone else is doing, we’re doing it our way” and simply charged for it, they would have been seriously better off long-term. They might have taken a slight drop as some Honda customers decided to try Kia/Hyundai, but that would have been very short term and those users would have come back.

        That a Japanese company didn’t take a long term view, is astounding.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      “I’ve been saying that, to the gnashing of teeth of many Honda fanbois here”

      Heh, that’s literally what happened. That is, the transmissions used cheap parts, gnashed their teeth and chipped a tooth, resulting in failure.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    The current Si seems like a practical joke. The Civic hatchback looks like it stole a MK5 GTI’s plastic fake bumper grills. Hondas have been cars for people who don’t want turbos. The least efficient car they ever sold in the US relative to expectations was the fist RDX, and now we are being force fed the same garbage that caused me to abandon previous brand preferences. If CVT-turbo combinations are their better idea, I’d rather have a 2012 Civic Si, thanks. I know a couple people whose first Hondas were 2012 Civic EX-Ls, by the way. They moved on to other Hondas when their leases were up. I’ve seen competitor vehicles that have already had serious drivetrain issues, but I’ve never seen a ninth generation Civic that needed more than fluids or brake pads. New Hondas are looking pretty junky on the reliability indices. There’s a Toyota in my future.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “…the rains of product development”

    should read

    “…the reigns of product development”

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    I still like the look of the original incarnation of the 9th gen Civic. It’s so clean and functional compared to the chrome’d out refresh that came later and Senior Fake-Grills-Bumper of the 10th-gen era.

    I think it was also an accidental serendipitous product shift for it’s time. The 9th ended up being discounted, but there weren’t that many Fit’s in the inventory either, so a lot of the low-tier Civic’s of that era probably went to would-be Fit-type customers.

    What I really don’t like about Honda now is how “American” the feeling of the cars is… bigger, brasher. The draw of the 90’s was that Honda was Japanese minimalism and understatedness… that is long gone now.

    • 0 avatar
      blackEldo

      To me, the 8th gen Civic looked “newer” and more modern than the 9th gen. They honestly could’ve kept that same basic design with mechanical updates and it would’ve gone over better than the pre-facelift 9th gen.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      “What I really don’t like about Honda now is how “American” the feeling of the cars is… bigger, brasher.”

      There might be a small consolation for fans of the discontinued TSX, which was Acura’s last in the line of great cars. The TSX was really a Euro-spec (smaller than American) Accord. While the TLX can be too large, and the ILX arguably not worth the money, the new Civic wheelbase is almost identical at around 106″ and there might be some TSX lineage in there.

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    The original Reuters’ article goes into a little more detail. It’s worth the read (just do a quick search and it should be easy to find).

    It’s good to see that at least some of the people at Honda are aware of the issue and are trying to change the culture from within.

  • avatar
    mike978

    Honda deserve praise for being honest. They say they list their uniqueness and focused on the bottom line. Yet there are some on here who lambast Mazda, for now, resisting the same path to blandness.

  • avatar
    ceipower

    Hachigo’s meyacopa rings a little shallow IMO. He fails to mention a core reason all this cost cutting was taking place. The HondaJetproject cost Honda a billion dollars and to date is no where near being able to support itself. Honda may claim otherwise, but the money had to come from other sources and the fat and Juicy auto division was a prime target. Other Honda divisions like motorcycle and power Equipment saw similar cuts in quality/costs. Nothing it seems escaped Hondas hunger for dollars to support HondaJet at any costs. Why this isn’t written about and why Honda officials are never asked is a mystery and a clear failure of the automotive press.

  • avatar
    Offbeat Oddity

    Honda’s recent vehicles of the last couple of years are much improved, but one area they seem to be worse is in the reliability department (2016 Civic issues, the CVT in the 2015 CRV, etc). While the 2011 Civic (and to a lesser extent, the 2012 CRV) was cheapened a lot, at least it still had top notch reliability going for it.

    With Honda’s move toward CVTs and turbocharging, I’m hoping they can maintain a high level of reliability, but I’m a little skeptical. They’re losing ground in that area relative toward Toyota. I’m a Honda owner now, but my next vehicle may be a Toyota if they don’t buckle down on quality control.

    • 0 avatar
      johnds

      I believe the 1st year reliability issues with the Civic was because of the radio. Sad that car reliability is based on a radio. There was a recall on early 2.0’s for a defect, but those were in small numbers.

      As far as the 2015 Crv, the issue was not transmission reliability. If you look between the 15-16 model you will see they raised the minimum RPM’s because the 15 was idling so low it was causing vibrations. Of course, this change caused a loss of 1mpg.

  • avatar
    fiasco

    Pulls up next to a new Civic in my Volvo 850. “That Civic is Buick-sized!” I feel like I have a Yugo when I drive my XR4Ti around modern Fits.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      “I feel like I have a Yugo when I drive my XR4Ti around modern Fits.”

      Funny you say that because the Fit is over a foot shorter. Or are you referring to their respective heights? The Fit is about 6 inches taller than either a Yugo or a Merkur.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    We’ve seen this before. Success, rapid growth, but there is only so much market. So growth slows, market cap stagnates, and the beancounters demand more growth.

    It put GM into bankruptcy.
    It put Datsun/Nissan into “restructuring” (would be bankruptcy if it was US company)
    Toyota has been in a slow decline that started in 1997.
    Honda went rudderless at least a decade ago.
    I predict the next maker to suffer from the, “more profits now,” monster will be Subaru.

    Hard to draw a line on where it all started, but the decline hit Acura hard first, and then spilled over to Honda.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      it also led to VW’s shenanigans.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      My Dad turned in his leased 1991 Accord EX, the iteration most favored in a recent B&B survey, for the first year of the 5th-Gen, a 1994 Accord EX. That 1991, my Dad’s first of five Accords to date, was a block of granite, a BMW 3-Series beater when they were still worth buying. (Well, certainly better than the average family hauler, by far! Thing handled like it was on rails; the 2.2-liter four, even with VTEC still a generation away, pulled like a freight train, all while cruising at arrest-me speeds with the usual road noise, but still quite capably, exuding a refinement above its class!)

      Very first thing I noticed upon getting into the 1994 was that the floormats and carpeting were a step down from the previous car.

      Most people say that the downslide started with the switch of the 2001 Civic from SLA-front suspension to MacStruts (which caused lots of problems).

      Then the 8th-Gen Accord became the worst of the lot, followed by the 2012 Civic fiasco.

      The 9th-Gen Accord knocked it outta the park! Then the 10th-Gen Civic debuted badly with the buggy infotainment.

      The new CR-V is doing well, but the new Odyssey is showing teething problems.

      And my biggest fear is what’s coming with the force-fed stuff beginning with the new Accord! I hope for Honda’s sake that there were more than a few “oh God, what have we done”s uttered in Marysville and Torrance on the day the Camry was unveiled at NAIAS in January, and unlike all the others saving the planet by asking a lawnmower engine to pull a semi-truck, Toyota is still going with normal engines throughout the range! And Honda probably could have done the same thing with a re-architected V6 using DI and DOHC (with a timing chain) which would have done fine even leaving out VCM, knowing that there was a ten-speed transmission in the pipe which probably could have gotten the highway MPGs into the upper 30s if not the magic four-oh! (I’ll bet that ten-speed would have broken 45 highway hooked to a K24; this would have also left a better engine option for Acura, but no: rumor-control has it that the 3rd-Gen RDX SUV is likely going back to its turdocharged roots, and maybe even the next TLX sedan!)

      Heck, I would have been OK with a low-pressure turbo on a K24 as an upper-trim Accord option; it’s the tiny engine/bigger car thing that worries me most!

      More down-thread!

  • avatar
    zip89123

    With some noise insulation & volume knobs sales would be better. One down, one to go.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    And speaking of time and resources that Honda will never make back, the current F-1 engine program is an embarrassment and one of the tmodt public displays of money and talent going down the drain I can ever remember in recent racing history.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    Hachigo’s mea culpa rings a little hollow IMO.

    TFTFY

  • avatar
    stingray65

    For 25+ years Honda has been coasting on its engineering reputation that was built under the leadership of founder Soichiro Honda, who died in 1991. Most of Honda’s “great” cars and motorcycles were developed during the 70s and 80s, when they also benefited from very favorable exchange rates against US and European currencies, Japan Inc’s near-zero cost of capital, and the mismanagement and labor difficulties experienced by all US and most European competitors. In reality the 1970s Civic and Accords really weren’t that great, but when compared to Chevettes, Pintos, X-bodies, K-Cars, Tempos, etc. and British Leyland, Fiat, Renault, etc. offerings of the era – they seemed brilliant and were highly profitable due to Japan’s market advantages. Now the competition is far tougher, and includes Korea and emerging China, Mr. Honda’s legacy is long-gone, and everyone has near-zero cost of capital, and we are finding Honda has feet of clay.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Yeah, those 1970s Tempos and K cars were bad. So bad, they didn’t exist (except on paper, as they were being designed during that decade, not built).

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      I would have to agree with most of your post, Stingray. It seems funny to me that most people would accuse Toyota of becoming the next GM, while Honda has become the next Ford. Always playing second fiddle, attempting to keep up.

  • avatar
    Minnesota Nice

    I owned a 2006 Si coupe before I bought a 2012 Si coupe.

    The 2006 was an outstanding car. Lightyears ahead of the competition in design and material quality. When I “upgraded” to the 2012, I almost immediately regret my decision.

    The interior was a sea of hard plastic- not a single soft touch piece of plastic anywhere. Wind noise was so unbearable on the highway you had to practically yell to hear passengers speak- if it was raining- don’t even bother. Door panels flexed when you used the windows, carpet was peach fuzz, and the headliner was literally cardboard with felt glued on. Driving dynamics for an Si were abysmal. The previous generation EX handled better.

    I traded it in for a 2013 Si less than a year later and that car was vastly improved in every way.

    I’ve since moved on to a 2016 Touring and outside of the sometimes buggy headunit, it’s the best Civic I’ve owned. I’ve seen as high as 50 mpg on the highway, little road noise, it’s comfortable, and I get compliments on it constantly.

    The 2016 gets a lot of hate, but there’s not another compact car out there that offers nearly as much or does things nearly as well as the new Civic.

  • avatar
    scott25

    Surprised no one’s mentioned them, but the spectacular failures of the CR-Z, Crosstour, 2nd-gen Insight, and Clarity didn’t help anything either.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      ^ This!

      And they let the Element wither on the vine!

      The Clarity Hybrid should be a decent choice, but as I stated in a vtec.net thread on this topic, they’ve been pwned by Toyota every step of the way in hybrids!

      Now they’re going “me, too” with engines!

      Hopefully their mojo will be found in top-notch interior quality in the upcoming Accord, as that and a better feature set overall is what’s going to keep Toyota from cleaning their clock!

  • avatar
    hreardon

    Jeez, for a moment there I thought we were discussing a German car company, what with the complaints about company hubris and grenading, non-goodwilled components. ;-)

    But in seriousness, I think that Honda is making the right moves now. Accepting you’ve made a mistake and publicly falling on the sword like this is a good sign that the company gets it and is working to correct the sins of the past.

  • avatar
    Carrera

    There were some mistakes done along the way no doubt. I’ve owned many Hondas, Civic, De Sol, Accord, CRV, Ridgeline, Pilot. The best was my Made in Japan 2001 CRV. I sold it at 129,000 with regular oil changes and a brake job. Nothing else. Then my brand new 2006 Pilot needed some minor adjustments when it was brand new, which I thought a little disappointing. It was mostly the incompetence of the dealer that turned me off but I have been able to separate the dealer from the manufacturer and not blame Honda for the dealer’s stupidity. Now, 11 years and 160,000 miles later the Pilot..with the glass transmission and VCM bomb is as strong as when it was new.
    My dad owned many Hondas over the years as well and my personal observation was that back in e 80s and early 90s, Honda took a lot more abuse from neglect. My dad would never consider changing the transmission fluid. He used to say “oh no, it is sealed”. I’ve never believed in that but I didn’t go crazy and over do it either. I did transmission fluids drop and fill every 40-45,000 on both my Ridgeline and Pilot. I sold the Ridgeline with 129,000 miles and it was flawless and still have the 160,000 Pilot with VCM and it is flawless. Yes , I did drink the cool aid and always used Honda fluids on everything but the oil which has always been synthetic. Coolant, PS, brakes, differential, AT, all Honda fluids.
    Some of their styling has been very questionable to say the least. I always found the newer Oddysey to be ugly, the latest generation of Civics to be ugly, the latest Ridgelline to be abhorrent.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      virtually every anything took more abuse from neglect in earlier eras. Newer product generations are generally “higher speed, lower drag”, but they achieve that by being delivered in a higher state of tune: More efficient at exactly what they were designed for, but with less resiliency against usage outside of that.

      I like the new Ridgeline design. As opposed to every other pickup truck out there, it manages to look friendly, rather than mean. Without at the same time looking frail, or just “cute.” The Ridgeline team still needs to bring Honda’s “magic seat” geniuses on board, to come up with a Honda grade midgate solution, allowing for a longer bed when that’s needed. But aside from that, I think they got it right this time.

  • avatar
    oldguy

    This story really hits home for me. After purchasing new 08 Civic 5 speed which was rock solid with a very nice leather interior, we leased with confidence a 15 CRV Touring. The CRV obviously was not yet ready for production, or last minute cost cutting sealed it’s fate. After a few weeks of ownership the dreaded 3-mode vibrations appeared, as well as higher speed vibrations due to crappy tires. One front seat had leather bunched up at a seam, and the warranty replacement supplied has now started cracking in a different spot. Happily for us the vibrations were repaired under the TSB, and the high speed tire issue diminished with tread wear. We are reminded of the cheapness of the interior every day with the mess that is the center console and of course the rattles behind the dash, and of the front windows in the channels if lowered. Front exterior door handles feel as if they will break every time you open the doors. I won’t dwell on minor stuff or the starter replacement that took 5 visits to my lying, arrogant local Honda Service Manager to diagnose and repair. I have no confidence in dealer or the vehicle which now has 36 k miles, with the lease up in 6 months. New or used Toyota coming up.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    No Prelude, no convertible, no targa top; please call back when you get interesting.

  • avatar
    tbp0701

    At one point I was a good candidate to be a Honda/Acura owner for life and was even a shareholder. But I saw the gradual decline and move from Honda’s being a company which made well built, brilliantly designed, practical yet engaging vehicles to one that evidently wanted to be something else. I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten until 2012, when I decided it was time to replace my 2000 Accord Coupe with over 240,000 miles; I was also finally in a good financial position.

    I first looked at Acuras and Hondas, went for some test drives, and was surprised at how much I disliked them. I even suspected that I’d aged and cars weren’t that fun anymore. But I shopped around, test drove anything that looked reliable and practical enough for long daily commutes but still offered some engagement and fun (and had a manual transmission). I wound up buying the least expensive car I test drove, a Mazda 3, and have been happy with it (so far there are no signs of rust, so hopefully they fixed that).

    So, Honda, I’ve moved on and even sold my shares, but I hope you regain what you’ve lost. It’ll be difficult, though. I’ve seen what happens when banality takes hold at a company, and the sycophants that thrive in such environments get promoted. Hopefully you still have some of the creative, brilliant people around. You’ll need them.

  • avatar
    jc77

    “While Honda has a long and storied automotive history”

    Well, you can’t really say that. Honda is mostly a motorbike, not automotive, company. The first cars made by Honda date back to merely 50 years ago, a time when all the other big players were already long established. In the realm of cars, Honda is a latecomer, and in many ways, a fast follower.
    Yes, it did have an impressive success in Formula 1 at some time, but then again, so did other companies (Fiat, Renault, Ford, recently Mercedes, just to name the most recent ones). The recent performances speak for themselves… just ask poor Alonso! The guy is a great pilot, and he doesn’t deserve to be bogged down by an uncompetitive engine.

    As a European who moved to the US 10 years ago, I’m really baffled when I hear people praising Honda products so much (or any Japanese brand, for that matter). As some people wrote in a few comments here, all Honda and a bunch of other companies did, was to see the opportunity opened by the general low quality of US-made cars in the 1970s and 1980s. They took advantage of it, with products that simply were “better than” US competition: hence their success. When they tried to do the same in Europe, things didn’t quite work the same way, of course.

    In my experience with car rentals, I had the chance of driving a few Accords and a Civic (the latest, Audi-A5-wannabe-look one). From a driver’s standpoint, saying I was underwhelmed is a euphemism. I found them to be terrible, terrible cars: slow, unrefined, clumsy, unresponsive.
    Speaking about the Civic I got a couple of months back (from Zipcar: I had requested a VW Golf, but there were none), I was surprised to see the interior as a copy of a 1980s Citroën, with retro-futuristic digital gauges and hard plastic everywhere. The transmission (CVT) turned the poor thing into something tragic to drive. I had a choice between 2 modes: “D”, which felt like driving a moped, and “Ds”, where at least the revs would match my input from the gas pedal, but with such a ratio that the engine was screaming at 3,500RPM at the whopping speed of… 72mph. Two gears: both useless. The suspension setting was too soft, although I have to give them credit for finally figuring out how do to rear multi-link on a small car (how long did it take them?).
    Bottom line, that car felt and drove like an uglier, downgraded copy of a previous generation Golf. You could praise the small turbocharged engines, but it’s nothing innovative: European companies have been using that setup for a long time now.

    They might be reliable (?), but honestly, from my experience, I can see no reason to buy Honda products, other than their mostly undeserved reputation. Perhaps they’re good automotive appliances to go from A to B, but no wonder that in markets where a car is judged from its overall quality (not just reliability at any cost), Honda’s market share has never increased beyond 1%.

  • avatar
    jc77

    I tried to post this before, but it didn’t get through…

    “While Honda has a long and storied automotive history”

    Well, you can’t really say that. Honda is first a motorbike, then an automotive, company. The first cars made by Honda date back to merely 50 years ago, a time when all the other big players were already long established. In the realm of cars, Honda is a latecomer, and in many ways, a fast follower.
    It did have an impressive success in Formula 1 at some time, but then again, so did other companies (Fiat, Renault, Ford, recently Mercedes, just to name the most recent ones). As for recently, just ask poor Fernando Alonso.

    As a European who moved to the US 10 years ago, I’m really baffled when I hear people praising Honda products so much (or any Japanese brand, for that matter). As some people wrote in a few comments here, all Honda and a bunch of other companies did, was to see the abysmal quality of US-made cars in the 1970s and 1980s: they took advantage of it, selling products that simply were “better than” US competition. When they tried to do the same in Europe, things didn’t quite work the same way, of course.

    In my experience with car rentals, I had the chance of driving a few Accords, and more recetly a Civic (the latest, Audi-A5-wannabe-look one). From a driver’s standpoint, saying I was underwhelmed is a euphemism. I found them to be terrible, terrible cars: slow, unrefined, clumsy, unresponsive.
    Speaking about the Civic I got a couple of months back (from Zipcar: I had requested a VW Golf, but there were none), I was surprised to see the interior as a cheap copy of a 1980s Citroën, with retro-futuristic digital gauges and hard plastic everywhere. The transmission (CVT) turned the poor thing into something tragic to drive. I had a choice between 2 modes: “D”, which felt like driving a moped, and “Ds”, where at least the revs would match my input from the gas pedal, but with such a ratio that the engine was screaming at 3,500RPM at the whopping speed of… 72mph. Two gears: both useless. The suspension setting was too soft, although I have to give them credit for finally figuring out how do to rear multi-link on a small car (how long did it take them?).
    Bottom line, that car felt and drove like an uglier, downgraded copy of a previous generation Golf. You could praise the small turbocharged engines, but it’s hardly innovative: European companies have been using that setup for a long time now.

    They might be very reliable (?), but honestly, from my experience, I can see no reason to buy any Honda products, other than their (mostly undeserved) reputation. Perhaps they’re good automotive appliances to go from A to B, but no wonder that in markets such as Europe, where a car is judged from its overall quality and people don’t just go for “reliability at any cost”, Honda’s market share has never increased beyond 1%.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • 87 Morgan: Green..Unless it is on a Morgan, Jag, MG; pass. Perhaps it was the years I worked at a Subaru store and...
  • kosmo: I think that GENERALY, Consumers Union has their heart in the right place, but man, they could suck the joy...
  • stuki: It’s better compared to the HD Payload 1/2 tons Ford sells. When towing and hauling at the upper end of...
  • redapple: People who have never been in a big 3 car plant, should really refrain from commenting how the big 3 should...
  • 87 Morgan: I know…it was a 98 Jetta TDI so this was pre-dieselgate. Great car that defied all VW ownership...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States