Honda Going Back To The Basics?

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

Honda has been getting flack on these pages for some time now for succumbing to size and weight bloating, a criticism that carries a special sting for an automaker that clawed its way into the mainstream by offering inexpensive, efficient models. And it seems that a little bashing may have helped. Automotive News [sub] reports that Honda has “torn up” its old product plan, and is refocusing on less expensive, more fuel-efficient offerings.Honda CEO Takanobu Ito explains:

We are taking more time to rethink the new Civic and all our models. We had to revisit our development work and planning to comply with the change in the environment

And Ito isn’t referring to changes in the polar icecap either, but rather to the post-credit crisis consumer environment. Prior to the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Ito says Honda was developing a V8, an RWD platform and a larger successor to the Civic. Now it seems that the financial crisis that has been blamed for everything from declining sales to the bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler is yielding the kind of results that a decade of plenty couldn’t.

Not that changing the focus of product development is entirely without its challenges. “The team is struggling,” admits Ito. “We are injecting more manpower to meet our target.” Especially because Honda isn’t trying to become Kia. Well, old Kia.

The easiest option would be to make products cheaper, but we have to not only cut the price but also maintain the highest quality. This applies to all models, but the biggest is the world Civic.

The Civic strategy is not likely to yield a complete return to form. After all, a true return to old-school Civic values would leave the Fit without a reason to live. Instead the plan is to increase the perception of roominess without increasing the size. And, presumably, without increasing weight. These changes should ripple down to Civic-based vehicles like the CR-V, and the (thus-far) JDM-only Stream minivan. Hybrid technology will also proliferate across a greater portion of its vehicle range, and Honda will move into electric offerings, despite early resistance to the trend. Does this mean we’ll see a real return to Honda’s roots with a new-age 600 along the lines of the EV-N? Probably not. Still, this is an indication that Honda is headed back towards the values that made it a major player.

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • Obbop Obbop on Oct 29, 2009

    My little 1975 Civic CVCC bought used in 1980 was a decent squirt around the town and down the freeway critter. Reliable but the cold damp winters in California's central valley caused carburetor icing problems that led to rough running and stalling I was nevr able to cure. The 5-speed was groovy and it was the first car i ever lived in for awhile. Remove the passenger seat back, lower the rear seat back until it touched the seat bottom then cut a 3/4-inch sheet of plywood that ran from the firewall to below the bottom of the rear hatchback. Was almost able to stretch out full length... close enough to allow sleeping. Two sheets shoved into the space that accepted the headliner and leading downwards and towards the outer perimeter of the interior where it was tucked in here and there kept prying eyes, if they happened to pass by the out-of-the-way spots I parked to sleep, completed the preparations for a night's snooze. If forced to resort to that living arrangement again my long-bed Silvarado with its camper shell (curtains already installed to ease a transition) will be so much more comfortable and allow storage for more possessions and even a camping style porta-potty and a propane cooking stove so let the economy collapse. I'm ready. Wondering how many Americans could handle the transition?

  • Pch101 Pch101 on Oct 29, 2009
    IMO the current Accord gets a bum rap from the enthusiasts. While it is a large car inside it weigh less than many midsizers (and weight is the real enemy) and its dimensions are within the midsize norm The Honda mindset is to do less with more. Whereas most of its competitors compete in the mid-size and large sedan segment with two offerings each (Camry and Avalon, Altima and Maxima, Fusion and Taurus, Jetta and Passat, etc.), Honda tries to make do with just one. If Honda behaved like its rivals, it would make a smaller Accord, but then accompany it with a larger model. That would raise its costs per unit, and since it probably wouldn't provide substantially, if any, more revenue, that would be a net loser. One can quibble about the specific size, but it generally makes sense for Honda to avoid building two cars where one will suffice. That helps with earnings, cost management and inventory management. I don't see the problem here; they aren't following the norm, and in Honda's case, that's a good idea.
  • James Hendricks The depreciation on the Turbo S is going to be epic!
  • VoGhost Key phrase: "The EV market has grown." Yup, EV sales are up yet again, contrary to what nearly every article on the topic has been claiming. It's almost as if the press gets 30% of ad revenues from oil companies and legacy ICE OEMs.
  • Leonard Ostrander Daniel J, you are making the assertion. It's up to you to produce the evidence.
  • VoGhost I remember all those years when the brilliant TTAC commenters told me over and over how easy it was for legacy automakers to switch to making EVs, and that Tesla was due to be crushed by them in just a few months.
  • D "smaller vehicles" - sorry, that's way too much common sense! Americans won't go along because clever marketing convinced us our egos need big@ss trucks, which give auto manufacturers the profit margin they want, and everybody feels vulnerable now unless they too have a huge vehicle. Lower speed limits could help, but no politician wants to push that losing policy. We'll just go on building more lanes and driving faster and faster behind our vehicle's tinted privacy glass. Visions of Slim Pickens riding a big black jacked up truck out of a B-52.