Honda Curbs Its Enthusiasm

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
honda curbs its enthusiasm

As Martin Schwoerer has pointed out, Honda is in the midst of a green-oriented rebranding. Formula One efforts and the NSX “replacement” have already been canceled, as we’ce reported. According to Autocar, more enthusiast-oriented programs are being slashed as weak markets meet green branding initiative. Planned rear-drive Acura models, including development of a V8 engine are off the table due to poor demand for luxury models. These models were planned to compete with BMW’s 3,5 and 7 series. Honda has also canned plans for a S2000 replacement, leaving it without any kind of sports car in its portfolio. Though the eagerly-anticipated CR-Z coupe is still a go, a convertible roadster version will not be pursued. This isn’t great news for enthusiasts, who have long seen Honda as the most sporting of the Japanese big three. In reality, Honda has been steadily moving away from its enthusiast roots for years now.

Nissan’s GTR, 350/370Z and Altima have largely wrested the “mainstream import brand for enthusiasts” crown from Honda in recent years. Similarly, Inifiniti, Lexus and the Hyundai Genesis await any attempt to move Acura above its current entry-level, practical luxury brand. Instead, it seems that Honda is sniping at undersupplied sections of the market. It would seem that the Insight Hybrid is the new face of Honda’s corporate strategy, as it ditches an attempt to offer value upmarket (where sales are way down) in favor of offering value in the Prius-dominated hybrid market. The Insight and a forthcoming Fit Hybrid may not seem sexy to many enthusiasts, but Honda’s long-term approach is eminently pragmatic at a time when the market requires nothing less. Besides, as I may have mentioned once or twice, the enthusiast in me is plenty excited about the forthcoming CR-Z.

Join the conversation
2 of 42 comments
  • JEC JEC on Jan 07, 2009

    Green and fun are mutually exclusive categories. The problem lies in the target markets. People who desire green products shun anything frivolous and jump all over a mediocre product that has a strong symbolic image (Prius, duh). People who want fun cars may like efficiency, but they don't want something that is so sensible (sensible in this case meaning green, whatever that happens to mean this week) it's boring. If a Prius drove like a GTI, ethusiasts would still shun it because of the tree-hugging image (see also American reactions to import cars and bikes in the 60s and 70s). So the question is how do you bridge the gap? You may say that there are some fun, efficient cars out there that trounce the Prius for fuel economy, but they lack the symbolic value that greenheads look for. Why else has the Prius become a best seller, darling of the media and the celebutante set, despite being expensive, a crappy driver's car, and not all that efficient in real world conditions? Image is everything, not just for cock-car owners but also for militant green bastards who want to flaunt their smug "saving the world" mentality. So any car company will have a devil of a time making a car that appeals to both the hippies and the hotrodders, because those two groups are at polar opposites of the market spectrum. Personally, I'd stop whining and buy a GTI or equivalent hot hatch if you really want a fun, highly efficient car (last I checked, the GTI was rated at 42 imperial MPG on the highway, which is very close to my mom's 1.7L Honda). And if the Fiat 500 ever makes it over here, that will be about as close to a perfect balance between fun and economy as you will see in the current market.

  • Kzone86 Kzone86 on Jun 21, 2009

    Anyone who thinks Honda is the company for enthusiasts, or has been in any recent years, is blind. Honda is very close to becoming a clone of their rival: Toyota The Official Car of People Who Don't Like Driving

  • Inside Looking Out "And safety was enhanced generally via new reversing lamps and turn signals fitted as standard equipment."Did not get it, turn signals were optional in 1954?
  • Lorenzo As long as Grenadier is just a name, and it doesn't actually grenade like Chrysler UltraDrive transmissions. Still, how big is the market for grossly overpriced vehicles? A name like INEOS doesn't have the snobbobile cachet yet. The bulk of the auto market is people who need a reliable, economical car to get to work, and they're not going to pay these prices.
  • Lorenzo They may as well put a conventional key ignition in a steel box with a padlock. Anything electronic is more likely to lock out the owner than someone trying to steal the car.
  • Lorenzo Another misleading article. If they're giving away Chargers, people can drive that when they need longer range, and leave the EV for grocery runs and zipping around town. But they're not giving away Chargers, thy're giving away chargers. What a letdown. What good are chargers in California or Nashville when the power goes out?
  • Luke42 I'm only buying EVs from here on out (when I have the option), so whoever backs off on their EV plans loses a shot at my business.