By on January 17, 2010

actual production version (courtesy auto blog)

Honda is clearly in a slump, and we’ve certainly done our fair share to point it out: the lackluster Insight; ugly styling highlighted by uglier front grilles; a hybrid system that simply isn’t as advanced and effective as Toyota’s; a bloated Accord; no new direct injection engines; lots of muddling about future EVs;  and a misplaced optimism about fuel cells. Honda (rightly) feels threatened by Hyundai and future competition from China. We’ve wondered openly if Hyundai has stolen Honda’s engine design mojo. Need I go on?  This week only added to their (our) woes, with the ugly and underwhelming CR-Z. It’s time for a serious consideration as to what went wrong at Honda, and how to fix it. Honda; are you listening? (I suspect so)

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

64 Comments on “Ask The B & B: Has Honda Lost Its Way? How Would You Fix It?...”

  • avatar

    In general Honda needs to get back to its roots in the U.S. market. If they were producing the same kinds of cars that made them successful in the first place there wouldn’t be a slump. The CRZ needs to be offered in a non-hybrid model. My guess is if that were to happen the sales would be about the same ratio as the Civic to the hybrid Civic. There is no mpg advantage to the hybrid version thus no reason for most buyers to pay more for it. CRZ styling needs to have crisper lines like the prototype. Direct injection engines are a given today and Honda needs to offer them. In general Honda cars need to lose the bloat factor, it’s not why people bought their cars, they bought them for the opposite reason.

  • avatar

    I’ve always found Honda cars uninspiring, overpriced, and their performance pretensions laughable.  They should stick to lawn mowers and motorcycles.

    • 0 avatar

      If you can’t see Honda for what it was and some of the more brilliant cars they produced or how they revolutionized the car industry, then I find your opinion uninspiring and laughable.

  • avatar

    Honda’s mission has been diluted and spread into lots of markets in which they have no experience whatsoever. Let’s use the Accord for an example. From 1976 until 2003, you could trace its improvements in a fairly steady manner. Incremental with a few fairly revolutionary models, like the 1986 Accord, but otherwise the steady refinement of an overriding vision. The Prelude was a useful harbinger of upcoming technology that invariably trickled down to the mainstream models. Five models, to me, indicate their decline. First, the Del Sol. Heavier, less sporty, compromise ergonomics, and uncharacteristically creaky. Second, the demise of the Prelude. No remaining reliable indicator of future directions in design and technology. Third, the CR-V. Not a bad vehicle, but playing catch-up in a market they did not define. Fourth, the 2001 Civic. First one clearly built to a price as the trick suspension vanished. Fifth, the 2003 Accord. Bloated US-only model, again attempting to compete in a different market from which it sprung. With its BMW styling cues, the 8th-gen Accord is an even more egregious example of this loss of vision.

  • avatar

    A lot of Honda’s problems stem from trying to play in too many segments too quickly.  I get the impression that Honda wants to be a head on Toyota fighter, but just doesn’t have the size or resources to do it well.
    As far as a way out of it, Honda needs to address it’s styling first of all – Hondas should be angular yet conservative, taught, with clean lines and minimal brightwork.   If the Accord is going to stay a large car, the Civic needs to grow to fill the shoes of the previous Accord, currently it is too close to the Fit.   The CR-V and Element somehow need to merge into one vehicle, the Ridgeline needs to go away, and the Pilot needs to look less like an SUV, or just go away altogether as well.
    Honda needs to invest heavily into making the most powerful and efficient (on regular gas) four cylinders in the industry, and roll them out quickly.  All of these engines needs to be mated with dual-clutch automated manual gearboxes, with a minimum of six speeds.
    An affordable sports or sporting car needs to be developed at added to the lineup, whether it is the Prelude, a redone S2000, or something else entirely.  As rocketrodeo says, Honda needs a vehicle for enthusiasts and the automotive press to get excited about and start writing about, to create some buzz and to introduce whatever new technology Honda is bringing to the market, which brings me to my final point –
    Honda needs to innovate.  At the moment Honda seems to be playing it safe.  The cars are high quality, well built, efficient, economical, and not altogether undesirable, but they are boring, and offer nothing that you can’t get somewhere else.  If Honda wants to get back out in front it needs to offer features, technology, or something that other automakers don’t have, and can’t simply rely on refining what everyone else does.

  • avatar
    Brian P

    I remember when Honda’s slogan was “We make it simple.” They need to do that. And (to paraphrase Colin Chapman) add lightness.
    My ’78 Civic was economical, light, fun, and tossable, even if it wasn’t all that fast. 1800 lbs (for the CVCC hatch – the 1200 sedan was even lighter), 63 horsepower. Loved that car. Didn’t like the rust or the oil consumption, but those problems don’t need 1000 lbs more weight to solve. The next couple generations of Civics (and Accords) were better cars and I remember my dad’s ’86 Accord hatchback being fantastic – great styling, bank-vault stability on the highway, really good ride and handling, but then the bloating started around 1990 (Acc0rd) / 1992 (Civic) and hasn’t stopped.

  • avatar

    Stop letting the PR department design cars. ie: stop trying to please shallow image-obsessed self-centered GREENIES and get back to their core streingth: A simple automotive design that focused on percision engineering with attention to practical logical detail, not cheezey cosmetic detail ie: the civic’s giant tach to appeal to the rice boy image and the accords USS Enterprise dashboard with a million buttons to look high-tech. Cut the fat! The accord is now a full size car and the civic is bigger than the accord from the 90s!! SMALL CARS SHOULD BE SMALL!!!!!

    • 0 avatar

      I definitely agree on needing a new marketing philosophy.  Make the buyer feel smart for choosing superior engineering, not wonder if by buying a Honda he’s given up and has settled for suburban malaise.  That’s kinda how I feel every time I get into my ’07 Accord or my wife’s ’05 Pilot– I think about those inane TV ads with the dogs in costumes pulling tiny sleds, and it takes a little spring out of my step as I walk toward my car.
      Also, and maybe this has been addressed since my Accord, but quit punishing Honda buyers by holding out the nice options for Acura models.  Why on earth doesn’t my EX-L Accord have memory seats?  Or the Pilot EX-L?  Must there be a compromise, the buyer giving up some surprise-and-delight factors for a Honda maintenance record?  It seems to me that there’s always something that Honda doesn’t do for its buyers in a vain attempt to get them to look at a snowplow-schnozz Acura.

  • avatar

    The Fit, Civic and CR-V are class leaders. The Pilot is competitive, but larger than Honda’s core competency. Kill the pickup.

    The Insight is inferior to the Prius, Honda needs to create a niche for it by keeping the efficiency but putting on an uprated suspension and offering a manual transmission in an Insight Si. Hybrid “Si”s don’t need more power, just the other performance upgrades.

    The CR-Z needs to become a Civic CR-X with the Civic Si engine. Kill the hybrid version or put in the Insight engine to make it more efficient.

    Acura is a joke, Honda needs to start winding it down by only keeping the Acura SUVs, which are the only Acuras people buy anyway.

    Sell the Euro Accord sedan and wagon as the Accord, not an Acura, and rename the current Accord and the ugly hatch version something else.

    Honda also needs direct injection and a wide range of turbo engines quickly. VW has a turbocharged, supercharged direct injection 1.4 liter engine, and GM is bringing a 1.4 liter turbo direct injection engine. This is what Honda should be doing. As the mediocre CR-Z efficiency proves, a hybrid is only as good as the internal combustion component.

  • avatar

    Compare the post on the 1984 Civic to Honda’s lineup today. That’s all you need to know.

  • avatar
    Dr Lemming

    Over the last 25 years I’ve primarily owned Hondas.  However, I’m really underwhelmed with recent offerings to the point where I don’t know if I’d stick with a Honda for my next purchase.

    I’d like to see Honda get back to the spirit the company had in the mid-to-late 1980s.  For example, how about a real successor to the CRX?  It wouldn’t be enough to remove the hybrid from the CRZ — the design needs a redo.  Cut the excess weight and the Bangled styling.  Let’s see some clean, old-school Germanic lines, and a return of Honda’s commitment to premium engineering.

    Let’s also see a return of the Civic tall wagon.  The Fit is too small, the Element and CRV are too tall and heavy, and the Civic sedan not very space efficient.

    The Ridgeline wouldn’t be such a bad idea if it had decent aerodynamics — and clean, more car-like  styling.  Why copy the over-the-top blockiness of the Not So Big Three’s trucks when Honda could offer a clearly defined alternative?

    That’s Honda’s core problem — it has stopped trying to be substantively different.

  • avatar

    They need to forget about the hybridization of their lineup that the execs are talking about.  Honda’s hybrid system can’t compete with Toyota, so why go down that route?  They also need a sports car.  Give the people who love Honda and the people who love cars something to get excited about.  Honda has always been about sporty cars.  There was a time when they offered the Civic Si, Integra, Prelude, S2000, and NSX all at once.  They don’t need that much, but it’s sad to see the Civic Si as their only remaining sporty car.  Bring back the Prelude or S2000.  As for Acura… it sucks.  Kill it off.  It would probably cost too much money to do what really needs to be done, which is to design and build dedicated luxury models.  If they have to keep it, they at least need to offer something smaller than the TSX, and offer AWD on all models.  Basically just copy Audi.  Actually, I like what no_slushbox has to say; sell the global Accord as the Accord in North America, and rename the US Accord to something else (Legend?)

    I think we’ll really know where Honda is heading when the redesigned Civic comes out. Currently, the Civic is a great and competitive car. I think that they should offer the hatchback version though. I think that they should also offer the sedan version of the Fit (the City) in the US.

  • avatar

    One big piece of the puzzle is that they should CUT PRICES! Hondas were well below competitors once, as customers became more aware of their qualities prices just mushroomed. Well I have a clear memory of an ad in 1992 or there about when they were claiming in their ad that you didn’t have to give anything up in order to have a good car. And then it would be a top of the line Civic at 13k. Keep in mind there’s Hyundai to take care of. A loaded Civic at the price of a loaded Hyundai which would ya take? If the Honda is 5k over…

    • 0 avatar

      Id by the Honda.. ANYDAY.


      Cause with the Hyundai they have been pushing the warranty against the vehicle.

      I want a solid car.. not the box-of-warrany along side it.

      I also LIKE / LOVE to drive.. and I dont see Hyundai selling cars to drive.

    • 0 avatar

      “I also LIKE / LOVE to drive.. and I dont see Hyundai selling cars to drive.”

      Hyundai has a rear wheel drive >200 HP turbo inline-4 6 speed manual coupe for the price of a Civic Si and a >300 HP V6 version of that coupe for the price of an Accord Coupe. That is a car to drive.

      Hyundai also has a rear wheel drive V8 luxury sedan that would make a better Acura than anything that Honda has ever sold as an Acura.

      The Civic is undoubtedly a better car than the Elantra, but FromBrazil has a point, for a regular buyer, in the US, $3-$4K better? I would say yes, for now, but a more basic transportation oriented person might not.

      So now Honda has lost on both ends. A hard-core enthusiast is going to buy a Genesis 2.0T 6MT Coupe instead of a Civic Si, and an ordinary buyer is going to buy an Elantra instead of a Civic.

    • 0 avatar

      I’s buy a Honda anyday, but when it stickers for over 5 grand, pause and thought, pause and thought, my goty have bought another brand

      thats the trick in thiz market, charge just enough, they qomt think about it, overcharge and they’ll think about and eventually move on

  • avatar

    Light weight and more elemental, efficient engines, simple and conservative styling. The new CR-Z is a joke.  How about 2000 lbs and 100hp? The original CRX was good for 50mpg. Who needs the complexity of a hybrid? Come on Honda, give us a high quality good handling, light weight efficient small car.

  • avatar

    After reading many comments on the light weight and fuel efficiency of 1980’s Honda vehicles, I can’t help but chime in to say that, it will never happen again. Honda along with all other auto makers are at the mercy of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
    The vehicles they built back then were a 1 possibly 2 star crash test rated vehicles. Can yo imagine anyone building such vehicle today?? They would get crucified by the IIHS and the media.
    Because of the IIHS ratings all vehicles have gained lots and weight and increase in price. All those air bags are not free.

    • 0 avatar

      ^ What he said – without the extensive use of exotic (read: expensive) materials, cars aren’t going to get significantly lighter anytime soon.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, okay, the safety-related weight won’t be coming down anytime soon. But the excess fat that comes from the added size can be certainly be addressed. The Accord is way too big, and it only portends bad things for the next Civic –if Honda decides it wants a large, medium, small lineup.

  • avatar

    My opinion is Honda needs to do the following:
    * Improve fuel efficiency across the line.  Not everyone lusts for high horsepower engines so they can drift like poseur race car drivers.  Many people just want a nicely styled comfy car that has reasonable acceleration and decent fuel economy to get to work in, be it sporty looking, conservative looking, SUV style, tiny, etc.
    * Make a luxury car or two that is quiet and cushy – something to compete with the Lexus ES, Buick Lacrosse, Mercedes C, etc.  Honda/Acura has a reputation for making “driver’s cars” with lots of road feel, but not for making rolling sofas.  They need a sofa model or two.  Also, the Acura dealers need to look high-class and provide red carpet treatment to go along with the luxury cars.
    * Stop trying to be so edgy with styling.  They’re the opposite extreme of Toyota in this area.  Except for people who drive snow plows or steam locomotives for a living, the front grill on the TL is a major turn-off.  They also need to lose the fallopian-tube styling on the steering wheels and center stacks of models they hope to market to consumers not in the market for a mommy-mobile.
    * Simplify the human interface on the dash.  As a geek, I love lots of buttons, knobs, screens, lights, etc. to play with.  However, the Accord & TL have gone too far.  I can just see someone plowing into a building as they’re scanning over 20 rows of identical buttons trying to find the window defogger switch.
    * Either make a “real” hybrid car or drop their hybrid line.  The “integrated motor assist” implementation is pathetic.  Real greenies won’t want a hybrid that doesn’t either save lots of gas or look so unique it’s a political statement.  Joe Consumer who wants to save on gas money will simply get a cheaper small displacement four-banger.  Technophiles will pass on this lame design and go straight to their local Toyota/Lexus dealer to get a real technotoy that has more advanced series/parallel hybrid technology and a joystick to go with it.

  • avatar

    @dwford – not the whole answer, but a good part of it. I think that Honda has like other companies, suffered from mission drift. The exact opposite of GM, when a car grew, it retained the same name, so that what was once a tiny car is now a mid sizer (Civic). Like you posted, at one time the Civic was the best Civic it could be. Now, it seems to be a Camry-Malibu-Sonata-Fusion sized car, especially since the Accord moved up to the Impala-Avalon size category. Honda has been rolling out some real clinkers lately, but until people stay away in droves or they start having Toyota level quality issues and the attendant negative publicity, they (Honda) will not see a reason to change.

  • avatar

    Honda’s woes are proof of how wickedly competitive the market is right now.   I’d add to that Honda’s intense independence, which may not be the best strategy in a world-wide market of allied players,  increased mandates for safety and efficiency, and the natural advantages that new and emerging companies have against established marks.   The Koreans, then the Chinese and finally the Indians will be eating up the low end of the market and Honda couldn’t establish itself or Acura as a brand at the middle and upper ends, where front-drive is always looked upon as second-rate.  I am betting that Honda will not be an independent auto company within five years. 

  • avatar

    Kill the Element.  It is still ugly and has poor visibility.
    Re: Current gen Accord – BMW called, they want their worst styling back.
    No more “frog eye” headlights.
    Bring back the 1988 generation Civic with airbags and a hybrid system.  (I know, crash standards, yada yada yada…)  This generation Civic, in my opinion, is what Honda needs to benchmark.  Simple, stylish, comfortable, great mileage, great reliability.
    Simplify the cars.  Clean, Audi-esque exteriors and simple (knobs for tuning the radio, for example), inviting, HIGH-QUALITY interiors.  All switchgear and materials should feel expensive.
    Be a trend leader and once again lose the radiator inlet.  It wasn’t necessary 22 years ago, it sure as he** isn’t necessary today.
    Give us a proper wagon!  Please!  The Crosstour X6 clone isn’t fooling anyone into thinking it’s a BMW.
    From the looks of it, the CR-Z should have been called the Insight, and the Insight – well, I just haven’t seen many of the new ones on the road.  Probably not selling well.  Take your lumps, kill this mistake, and give us a real Prius beater!
    No 2-door hybrid (CR-Z) should get the same mileage as an old and busted Cobalt!  Jeez!
    If you can’t tell, I have Stockholm Syndrome with Honda as my tormentor.

  • avatar

    No, they haven’t lost their way – not yet.   It’s typical of pistionheads to criticize Honda for uninspired cars, but uninspired is exactly what the majority of the market is looking for.    No inspiration, no surprises, no unexpected expenses.
    Honda still gets top marks for reliability, and the company is still profitable – other companies should have such problems.
    There’s no sense saying they need to stick to vehicles they have experience with – if they did that, they’d just be making the two wheeled Cub.    They’ve done well in some new markets – the CR-V for example.   I’m sure it, as well as the element, contribute a lot to the bottom line.
    Not all forays into new territory are going to be successful, but success only comes to those who try, and sometimes trying results in failure.    Their truck is a failure because no one really wants a $28K compact unibody truck- who woulda thunk it?   But they tried something new, bold, and different, and how much could it have cost them to build yet another variant of the CR-V platform?     Their next bold move might yeild results.    What if they came out with a compact BOF truck with a civic engine?
    The bloat of the cars would be a problem, except that they fixed that with a new model.   The Fit is the new Civic.   The Civic is the new Accord.   The Accord is a big car now, and fills a segment that Honda wasn’t in before.
    I don’t understand the fascination with fuel cells, but again, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
    Hondas also retain their “tightness” and new car feel for a long time.   Our 5 year old CR-V still feels like it’s brand new.
    My question is this – who will fill the void when Honda gets tired of supplying all the Indy cars with engines?

  • avatar
    Andy D

    I know of 3 CRVs  pre-2k, Only  trouble was  with my FDIL’s .  A burnt exhaust valve which I  fixed for  them  for 300$ worth of  parts.  I really liked the DOHC 4 banger.  I  just wish  it   had  been put in straight , not sidewise.

  • avatar

    I agree they are in danger of losing big and may not be an independent company in 5 years.  Also agree they should focus on engine innovation.  They need a major breakout, and soon.

  • avatar

    I’ll preface by saying I have a ’99 Accord LX 5speed which I got in ’04, cheap, because the owner wanted a quick sale. I have come to love the car–it may not be Mozart but it IS Salieri to the Boxster’s Mozart–and although my intellect insists fanhood is a no-no, my gut has become prejudiced in favor of Hondas over other cars (except for the Cayman/Boxster and the Peugeot 404, heaven help me!)
    1. go for efficiency again. Without hybrid systems. make ’em efficient with light weight and the best ICE possible, the old formula.
    2. bring back the Integer and bring it back the way it was. Don’t even think about making it a hybrid. Give it a bit more headroom, and none of these stupid shallow windshields. Do that, and I’ll buy it. As soon as it’s available.
    3. Make the Fit good-looking (it’s really ugly, and looks like a low-budget car), and change the name to Jazz. Or something else. Fit is a really stupid name.
    4. After you’ve fixed the Jazz, give us a CRV version that has all the fun of the original.
    5. Yes, give us the Euro Accord and Accord wagon. If I ever have a couple of kids, I’ll buy the Accord wagon.
    6. If you feel absolutely obliged to load up on heavy luxury stuff, like power seats,which cost hundreds of pounds, give us optional light weight models.
    7. The Clarity is a truly beautiful, highly refined luxury car, much nicer, IMO, than any of the current Acuras. Wonderful styling. (I drove one at Consumer Reports as mentioned here : This car shows you still have what it takes. But it’s little more than a placeholder in its current role as a fuel cell car for the stars who want to plunk down whatever the lease is. Give us that instead of the RL/TL etc.
    Others have made numerous suggestions I agree with. Honda, are you listening?

    • 0 avatar

      On point number 3:  Honda has a good looking Fit…it’s called the City, and it looks great.  From the rear, it looks like a 7/8th scale 3 series.   So much so that I was doing double-takes the first several times I saw one .   The front end is respectable (better than a Mazda 3, Accord, or even a Civic).  Given that the Fit and the City are the same car under the skin, it should be able to pass a crash test, and could be readily configured for the North American market (I think it is already in Mexico).   Since the City, like most Honda products, is marketed as a upscale model in Southeast Asia, the interior is well appointed and very tasteful.  There’s none of the starship look of the current Civic.  In several short drives over a variety of roads, it rode well.
      Oh well.  Probably the best we can hope for stateside is that the new Civic shares some of its traits.

  • avatar
    Jeff in NH

    Honda has not lost its way.  They remain one of the few automotive manufacturers still offering a combination of reliability, durability, competent handling, driver involvement, sound ergonomics, well-designed seats, safety, smooth and powerful engines, and above all ‘mechanical zen’…that sense that everything works together in a beautiful manifestation of holistic engineering.  Honda is also willing to take risks, for which I thank the heavens every day.  What a boring world if Honda were to suddenly resign itself to producing three different sizes of sedan (yuck), offered in three different shades of silver (yuck), with the immutable trait of a rolling anesthetic (oh, what a feeling!).  Though I would never buy the following vehicles, I have an enduring appreciation for the Element (especially in green or orange), the Crosstour, the S2000, and the CR-Z.  Why?  Because they represent something different from the white bread we see all too often.  Listening to Honda ‘enthusiasts,’ one would think that this white bread way of thinking should be requisite with citizenship.
    The complaints about ‘bloat’ can be applied to practically all modern mass market-targeted vehicles.  As noted above, no company is immune from the competitive pressure induced by the likes of NHTSA and IIHS.  Affordable, safe, and fuel-efficient — pick any two (but not all three)!  I’ve also looked at the specifications for the Accord, and its dimensions and curb weight, while greater than those of preceding generations of the same model, are in line with those of competitors.  I don’t see the complaints having any basis in fact.  Lastly, if one is a loyal Honda buyer, the Civic really fills the role of the older Accord, and by many accounts is the segment leader.
    Exterior design is subjective – all comments here really should be tempered by an acknowledgment that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  Enough said.
    Honda has never been a ‘sports car’ manufacturer.  Yes, certain of their models over the years have played the part, but the defining characteristic is the ‘mechanical zen’ referenced above.  All parts in balance, with an equal application of quality.  This of course manifests in their longevity, a cherished trait in my mind.
    I can’t leave these remarks without a little constructive criticism for Honda.  (1) More confident brakes, please – this is a common complaint that actually carries weight (figuratively and literally); (2) Ditch the red rear turn signal lenses on the Accord Coupe, Ridgeline, and Pilot – for a company that touts safety first, this is an embarrassing oversight; (3) Please stop bundling VSA with sat-nav in the Fit – frustrating as hell!

  • avatar

    Here we go again, let’s pick on poor Honda.  How about some of the positives:  The current Civic still looks good compared to its competition (compare Joker-faced Mazda products), and has top notch reliability and resale.  And, the Odyssey is still the best looking, performing, and selling minivan.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll add that the Fit is still the reigning B class car in the US and their core models are still selling (relatively) well.
      They’ve had more misfires recently and Acura is a hot mess…but they’ve survived the last 18 months of disaster in a strong competitive position

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    “what went wrong at Honda”

    Soichiro Honda died.

  • avatar
    Jeff in NH

    Paul Niedermeyer:
    After some reflection, and with fairness given its due, I believe we can ask the same questions of Mercedes, BMW, Volvo, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota – Has “X” Lost Its Way?  How Would You Fix It?  Any chance the B&B can have at these subjects?

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      Absolutely; in the context perhaps of doing some stories over the course of a week as a preparation or some other major newsworthy related context. And we’ll make their respective PR depts. read them; which I know most of them do anyway.

  • avatar

    To all you asking them to “add lightness” and “tossablity”  do you really want your last experience on Earth to be your head going up your own a** when some drunk in a F-250 crosses the center line?

    • 0 avatar

      Nothing will save you in a head-on with an F250, unless you’re in a Freightliner.  The “tossability” my help you dodge it in the first place though, and the extra braking ability from the lightness may help you get down to a speed that doesn’t induce insta-death.

    • 0 avatar

      Also, added lightness may bring back sanity to the long ignored metric of driver visibility.  Yes, there’s the  NHTSA and IIHS. Yes there’s rollover standards, side-curtain, and (soon to be) sun-visor and headrest airbags. Anyway, maybe Honda could start pushing back against Safety losers before we see the first 12 inch wide A-pillar.

  • avatar

    I toured the Honda plant in Marysville, OH in ’93 with the tech school I was attending at the time.  Perfectly white four door Accords w/ tan interior equipped with five speed transmissions dutifully paraded through, destined to their loving suburban, middle class homes.  “Hey. Uh..why don’t you guys make any trucks?” asked one of my colleagues from the welding class.  The tour guide replied, “Our goal is to make the best car in the world.”
    The image of those Accords and that phrase has never left me.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    I viewed Honda as an engineering-centric company and preferred its wares to Toyota and Nissan. It started to come apart with the 2001 Civic when the bean counters overruled the engineers and the front suspension was changed from double wishbone to McPherson struts, strictly a cost cutting move.

    Our Infiniti is superior to our Acura in every way including customer care. When the time comes the Acura will be replaced with an Infiniti.

  • avatar

    I’ve always found Honda cars uninspiring, overpriced, and their performance pretensions laughable.  They should stick to lawn mowers and motorcycles.

    +1 Still, kudos to Honda for creating products that dumbass teenagers think will go faster if they attach coffee can sized exhausts to them. Completely annihilating them at stop lights always makes my weekend. Cars aside, I really like their motorcycles and scooters.

  • avatar

    Thanks to deaded fo r introducing me to the Honda City. Yes, that’s a much better looking car, and more Honda-like than the Fit. Bring it to the US!

  • avatar

    I don’t get all the Honda hate.  I have an TSX with 70,000 miles.  Comfortable, fantastic mileage, and not a single problem.  Still looks, feels and drives like new, and I fully expect to get 200,000+ miles out of it.  How could this be the wrong formula?

  • avatar

                    I wouldn’t go that far. Some recent model intros strikes me as a bit baffling, but others make sense. For a three size lineup, the small Fit, midsize Civic and Large Accord make sense in the US. Honda is no longer a scrapper at the bottom of the market, but rather a “premium”, though non luxury brand. Also, they no longer face the prejudices that kept them out of older, large car intending, households in the early 80s. Honda is now as mainstream a US brand as anyone, and needs to appeal to “all” Americans, not just those who’d rather be European.
                    I believe it is important for Honda to continue to derive the max benefit from their chosen platform, the transverse mounted inline FWD. Inherent packaging efficiency potential should allow the Fit to be smaller than the 1 in exterior dimension, with a larger interior. With the Civic being between the 1 and 3 on the outside, 3 and 5 on the inside. And similar or the Accord and 5 & 7. If that means giving up the V6, and relying on IMA, a bigger 4 or even an I6 transverse (in the Accord), do it. Every inch of rear seat space counts in your largest model, as there is literally nowhere in the showroom to go for those who want just a bit more. I’m also convinced packaging efficiency (and mileage / CO2 concerns) warrants wagon versions in all sizes. An Accord wagon of the current large size could have close to 80 cubic feet behind the front seats if packaged as efficiently as the V70. That’s pretty much Pilot territory, in a realistic 30+mpg highway (and with IMA or better, in the city as well) car that is cheap to maintain and need not start much higher than the low $20,000s.
                    In order to achieve this packaging efficiency across the board, ditch AWD for Honda, and let it be the differentiator for Acura. Instead, resurrect a modernized version of ATTS, or on cheaper models, a simpler limited slip. For those who absolutely insist on getting themselves stuck, possibly sell a high trim level hybrid, with the addition of electric rear wheel “get out of the ditch” motors. But flat floors and large trunks ought to trump AWD in cars built with an eye to practicality, affordability and fuel efficiency.
                    As for the CUVs, the CR-V is great for what it is (although I’m convinced 80% of its current buyers would be better served with a Civic or Accord wagon), and the Element is flat out brilliant in concept for those niches it gels with. It should be updated for better NVH though, and either receive a less herky jerky AWD than the slow to react real time one, or, more in the spirit of the car, come with a simple manual 2H, 4H transfer case and a limited slip front diff. I also think the SC version should be an Acura, with sh-awd and up rated exterior and interior. Keep Hondas utilitarian. The Pilot and Odyssey doesn’t seem to receive many complaints, although an Odyssey with Acura level trim and equipment, sh-awd and a beak would be one heck of a conveyance for those needing the space.
                    When it comes to tech like high heat, quick spooling, highly efficient turbos, direct injection and attendant sky high compression, it’s important to realize Honda have a lot more to lose from cars with such stuff becoming expensive to maintain, even if 10 years and 200,000 miles down the road, than BMW, VW, Hyundai et al., which noone expects much in the way of reliability and/or cheap repairs from anyway. It is suspicious that the two consistent reliability champs, Honda and Toyota, are both seemingly dragging their feet on rollout of these technologies, while the consistent CR bottom dwellers are at the head of the class. I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t for a reason. Until these things can be fixed cheaply, Honda should probably limit them to Acura, where buyers ought to be better able to absorb repair costs, and where high tech is part of the brand’s raison d’être.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve noticed the “slow” rollout of new technologies from Honda and Toyota too. They seem to refine existing technology until it meets their goals with reliability, and utilize it. I’m sure in a generation or two of cars, we’ll start to see DI, etc. start to come out.
      My family has owned a 2003 V6 Accord since new and it consistently logs 27 mpg freeway. It’s required no warranty repairs and runs the same as it did when we brought it home. As far as I can tell, it’s a fairly even match BMW 328i with regards to MPG and power and displacement. Honda manages to do this without electric steering, direct injection, variable electronic water pumps, regen braking, Valvetronic (Variable lift), etc.
      On a side note, the 3.0 N52 engine in the 328i makes 260hp in the 07+ X3. Not sure why they couldn’t give the 128i this kind of power.

    • 0 avatar

      Except for hybrid technology – but then that’s for the plebs not the B&B so I guess it doesn’t count

    • 0 avatar

                      I can only guess Honda feels pretty confident about the long term reliability of the IMA, and that eventual repair costs will only come down in the future. Assuming they ever sell any meaningful numbers of them, stories of $3000 repair bills to keep 5 year old Honda hybrids on the road, sure won’t do their reputation any favors. Except for the (ever cheaper) software and electronics, IMA is about as simple as it gets, and pretty much a bolt on, so I’m not surprised Honda would feel more comfortable about adding that than high heat turbos and DI.

  • avatar

    Honda’s a hard one, this isn’t an easy skewer like Toyota or GM. On the one hand, the Accord and Fit are best in class all things considered, the Civic is a solid hit despite urgently needing an interior upgrade and the Element/CRV twins a real success. All of these cars, despite whatever flaws they might have, represent the brand well, and feel very Honda. On the other, Honda’s automated drivetrain technology is decidedly second rate at this point and there is Acura, selling various Accords, lately made ugly at that, for far too much money. They are nice cars, but their true product bogey is VW, not BMW, and they should price accordingly.

    The recent styling disaster that has come up recently, most notably the huge front overhang, is something else, and has the potential to really hurt the brand if it spreads to the core models.

  • avatar

    Hondas brand in the United States is all about reliability and build quality. Mazda can tell you that bold styling won’t move metal with Honda-like  numbers. Everyone who sells mass market cars is mired in the same boring template now. I would like to see more diversity in the Civic line. Honda could also make a leap by giving up the assumption that Civic buyers will upgrade to Accords. How about an 8 way power seat for those 6 feet and over in the Civic? Or a Civic based Acura that takes a serious run at the Audi A3? I agree with those who want Honda to seize the ICE zeitgeist again but they should concentrate on diesel and advanced engineering gasoline technologies like the CVCC of old.

    • 0 avatar

      Mazda can tell you that bold styling won’t move metal with Honda-like  numbers.
      This is very true, and I think most people forget that Honda is a volume marque, not a niche.  Retrenching to their 1980s selves would be balance-sheet suicide.  Mazda can do it because their cost structure suits a smaller make.
      Or a Civic based Acura that takes a serious run at the Audi A3?
      That would be the Acura CSX and/or the old RSX/Integra.  If I were to offer a criticism of Honda’s current strategy, it’s that they’ve completely screwed up Acura.  And no, not because the cars are ugly, but because there’s no longer a cheap, accessible Acura** to get people into the brand.  Just about everyone I know with a TL or MDX started out driving an Integra and traded up when traded clubbing for child seats.  Honda got greedy and cut the RSX, expecting buyers to go to the Si or TSX/RDX.  Buyers bought Jettas or leased 3-Series instead.
      Even rebadging the European Civic hatch as a new RSX and equipping it with the Civic Si’s powerplant would be something.
      ** excepting the CSX, which is Canada only and would make no sense in the US.

  • avatar

    Honda of 2010 is risking becoming more like Nissan than Toyota or Mazda.  That is unfortunate, as they have a strong history of innovation in styling and engineering.
    My advice…. pull what Mazda pulled off and redefine how we ought to be using a particular car (Miata).  I think they’re trying to do that with the CrossTour, but that thing is fugly.  Maybe that’s what they’ve done with the Fit – basic transportation, but injecting fun into it.  Perhaps we want the Civic to become Honda’s answer to what a BMW 2 series would be.
    I remember when Honda and Porsche were 2 of the most respected engine manufacturers.  Not sure I could say that about either at this point.

  • avatar

    Honda, you need to build a Rally car. All will be forgiven if you just do something cool for a change.

  • avatar

    Nothing will save you in a head-on with an F250, unless you’re in a Freightliner
    Really that’s a pretty bold statement.  Do you have any data to back that up?
    “The flip side, of course, is that more people are surviving horrific crashes that would have killed them just a few years ago.

    The Fusion’s passenger, for example, was hurt but conscious and joking with Roberts as the crew worked to get him out. The driver of the other vehicle — a 2001 Ford F-150 pickup — was dead at the scene.”
    But, I guess if you were a Honda executive you’d be all about the vast market for tin can death traps that is totally underserved.  Um…yeh…. have fun with that.

  • avatar

    Smaller. Simpler.  Cheaper.  Of course, I could say that about all the manufacturers these days.


  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Go back to the 1992 Accord.   Benchmark it in every meaningful measurement.

    Slightly refresh the styling.  (Classics don’t need much makeover.)  Modernize the electronics….

    Sell 450,000.

    Rinse.  Repeat.

  • avatar

    …a bloated Accord; no new direct injection engines…
    I will give you all your points but these two, because they’re not really true (for the first) or relevant (for the second).
    One: the Accord.  Yes, it’s bigger than any Accord before it.  So is the Camry**.  So is just about every midsize sedan.  The Accord is actually pretty svelte for what is, effectively, a full-size car: 3200-3300 with the four-cyl.  The less-roomy-in-real-life Impala weighs 300lbs more.  The even-less-roomy-than-that Charger is four thousand.  The Jetta, which is waaaay smaller inside, outweighs the Accord at the same level of trim.
    Put it this way: in a base-level Accord, you can get a manual-transmission equipped non-premium full-size car that’s reasonably fun to drive.  Not since the pre-06 Maxima was that an option.  I don’t see this as a bad thing.
    The problem with the Accord is that some people just can’t get past the idea that an Accord is a big car now.  You don’t hear people complaining about how “bloated” the Impala is, because the Impala has always been a big car, but god forbid Honda try to avoid the sales disaster that was the pint-size Mazda6 by making the Accord competitively-sized.
    If you want the Accord of yesteryear, Honda makes a Civic that’s about as spacious, luxurious and capable as the “good” Accord, while being more efficient.  But wait, that would mean “downsizing” to a “less prestigious car”.
    Two: direct injection: Why does this matter?  If we learned nothing from the whole OHC/OHV thing, it’s that how you arrive at your objective is irrelevant as long as the objective is realized.  Honda already has cars (not engines, not spec sheets, not engineering dissertations: cars that people can drive) that get real-world mileage and performance levels that meet or exceed customer expectations, even versus the DI powerplants we have now.
    DI is not a panacaea, nor was VTEC nor OHC.  What matters is power, emissions and economy, and if Honda can (and they are) competitive in that space, who cares?  Having it for the sake of having it is kind of like those “EFI” or “DOHC 24 Valve” stickers and badges** emblazoned across some really piss-poor cars in the 1980s.  No one cared.
    ** Remember how Honda used to slap “VTEC” on anything sporty and people used to nail them for it?  This would be the same argument, but from another direction.

    • 0 avatar

      Though Honda’s current engines are almost as efficient as DI – they would be more fuel efficient if Honda added this technology.  The more you can control the burn (which DI gives you) – the less fuel you can use.

    • 0 avatar

                      Does that advantage really persist even when run on shitty, low octane fuel? At least a good part of DI engines’ efficiency seem to come from allowing sky high compression.
                      In addition, pretty much all DI selling makes seem to buy the system from third parties like Bosch, while Honda has always been unusually hung up on building everything themselves.
                      I really don’t know enough about running costs, benefits and reliability of DI systems and the engines they’re put in, to slight the makes using them, but it is a bit suspicious that their uptake seems strongest amongst traditionally unreliable and expensive to repair makes. From a continent where things like fuel quality and uniformity are probably higher than in most other markets, where taxes and tariffs put an unnatural premium on every 10th of a percent mpg improvement, and where perhaps some of the knowledge going into designing and testing the systems have already been acquired through high pressure diesel fuel system development.
                      Compared to any other makes out there, Honda and Toyota derives huge sales and perception benefits from their positions as the “reliable” makes. And a lot of this stems from experiences people have as young drivers driving high mileage, old cars. So, even if the DI systems should prove trouble free for the first six years, if the repairs required past that point is outrageously expensive, the hit to Honda’s and Toyota’s reputation would be relatively bigger than for other makes with less to lose, so to speak.
                      To take a different view; Honda, more so than Toyota, also used to derive big benefits from being seen as the technology leader, and that reputation is definitely taking a hit, with their once world beating VTEC valve train seeming utterly crude and archaic, compared to BMW’s use of throttle less Valvetronic, now combined with both DI and high efficiency turbos, on demand alternators and electric pretty much every auxiliary function. Compared to that, Honda’s reliability claims could start to look a little bit like a stone ager arguing rocks last a long time, too.

  • avatar

    The CR-Z is one ugly little car.  It has the nose of a Chrysler Sebring and the tail of a Smart car, held together with the roofline of the CR-X. 

  • avatar

    Honda has muddied their origins and brand by chasing the mass market – trying to appeal to everyone and everything.  This has lost their message of efficient, fun to drive vehicles.  My main points as to why this has happened:

    – Engines: This has long been Honda’s bread and butter (very few mfgrs make as smooth and fun to drive normally aspirated inline 4 cylinder engines).  However Honda has since focused too much on hybrids and fuel cell cars that are still unproven to make a difference.  They cost more to mfgr up front, provide better fuel economy but at a price in 5-7 years for thousands of dollars in battery replacements – eliminating the benefit in the first place.

    Honda could have smartly bucked the trend – but chased the Hybrid halo car image (and failed).  Honda could have instead focused on the millions of cars they sold (rather than the 100k hybrid/fuel cells) by adding technology to make them more efficient overall (just a 2mpg increase in a million cars more than offsets a 15mpg increase in a hybrid).  By adding start / stop technology, direct injection, going to diesel engines instead that didn’t require urea injection, and other small improvements would have put Honda on a different playing field.  GM had a good idea with the start/stop technology but they made the big laughable mistake of calling them “hybrids” – their me 2 classification.

    – Styling: Honda has geared up to become a mass market automaker so they do as much as possible to make it bland looking so it won’t offend anyone.  Ironically doing just that offends people.

    – Vehicle Size: By chasing the mass market they need “average sized Americans” to consider their smaller cars.  You do that by making them bigger thereby losing fuel efficiency.

    – Safety not by Mass but by Avoidance maneuvers: I get all bent out of shape from crash tests – it becomes the only standard as to how we measure a cars safety.  What gets ignored is the safest thing you can install in a car is the ability to avoid one altogether.  As our cars become bigger, heavier, taller it gets much harder to avoid (plus lack of driver skill).  I’d wish also along with crash tests – these same organizations would also provide vehicle avoidance tests.  That would provide a more overall picture of a cars true safety mechanisms (such as stability control, traction control, abs, awd, etc.)

    I’m a long time Honda customer – owned over 10 Hondas / Acuras of all different models.  I use them as daily drivers, safe to drive cars, even raced for several years with them.  I just see Honda losing it’s once critical focus on fun to drive efficient cars to become the mass maker of big cars, SUVs and minivans.

    Acura is a different story altogether.  With how many times they’ve change messages, focus and given us the product that never fit either of those – it is one of Honda’s biggest failures and really needs to be shut down or put under sensible management that will really build up the brand (such as the no v8s and rwd which are tenants of luxury vehicles).

  • avatar

    Late to the party hear, but I note that when my ’96 Accord got to 150k, I figured I’d start looking for a new car in the next 50… well, I’m pushing 210k and haven’t bothered to go to a dealership yet.

    Honda needs to either bring back the Integra and polish up the rebranded Accords, or drop Acura entirely.

    Get some focus with hybrid… i.e. don’t push out a substandard Prius 2.

    The CRZ is a huge disappointment. The mock-ups looked like a dream, when I first stumbled on them I knew that this would be a commuting contender.

    What has come out is decidedly not. Seriously, my ’95 Civic was an automatic that seated 4 comfortably that had mpg approaching this ‘hybrid’ and the accelleration wasn’t too far off what this CRZ is supposed to be pushing. Oh, and was about 2/3 the numbers I’m seeing floating around.

    I’d like a hatch that isn’t chinzy like the Fit, with a manual transmission that seats 2 adults (and has room for my lab in the back) that is as fun to drive as an old Civic (and gets as good a gas mileage) and is as reliable as my Accord which, to be honest, refuses to die.

    That would be the perfect car for any human who needs to go from A to B (and doesn’t have a family of 7.) If anyone can build it, I’m sure that shop can… 

  • avatar
    Kyle Schellenberg

    There’s an exaggerated effect with some recent models that is muddling the bigger picture. There is good and bad within the current Honda lineup.
    Small cars
    The Fit is a winner. It looks great and is purposeful beyond most cars of any size. I agree with the thoughts on the City. I was in the Philippines earlier this year and it constantly caught my eye; they should consider selling it here. The current-gen Civic took a bit of time but it has grown on me. The styling is significantly differentiated from the competition and the biggest issue is really if one can live with the odd dashboard.
    Designing the Insight to look like the Prius was a terrible idea! I know the Prius is synonymous with hybrid, but by duping the design they provided a free measuring stick to point out all the flaws with this car. Considering the Prius has multiple generations of refinement to work with, how could they expect to go head-to-head? They could have implemented the ‘large hatchback’ concept in a different way that would have reduced those comparisons.
    Large cars
    Ugg. Fire your California (or wherever in America they’re hiring them) design people; they’re likely all Buick ex-pats. Seriously, keeping up with the Joneses is a race to mediocrity. The design language speaks of Costco-sized bags of chips-n-dip and lazy Sunday afternoon drives to IKEA to check for new products. Toyota has fallen off the map in this regard too, worse than Chevy or Ford. The Accord needs to have its overall dimensions trimmed and have the lines cleaned up to give the impression of a tighter package. The Crosstour is an abomination. It’s obviously a Boomer car so I’m sure there’s sales potential, but they have to do something with the shape – hideous. I’m pretty sure the Venza is going to kill the Crosstour in sales.
    The CR-V seems to be self-sufficient in its category. I’m not crazy about the front end styling but it doesn’t matter what it looks like, people will buy this model as long as the formula remains largely unchanged. The Odyssey is nice but could shed some weight for the sake of fuel efficiency. Still, that said it’s much like the CR-V in its segment – people will just buy it just because. I don’t know what to say about the Ridgeline/Pilot except there’s too much competition in these segments to be able to stand out. Perhaps a white flag is in order and go back to re-branding someone else’s product. Either that or they should try to create a legitimate no bones about it small truck to compete in that upcoming Mahindra/Nissan/Ranger marketplace.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • DenverMike: It’s not just the parking thing. Most Americans simply can’t drive something that big, scared...
  • DenverMike: Unless you were already struggling to feed the beast, yeah a few small changes and you’re good. Yet...
  • golden2husky: Lou you are correct. Some forget that flags, love of country, etc. is for everyone not just those on...
  • golden2husky: Certainly no IQ check. But probably an automatic retrieval of Q drops…right from Clarence Thomas’s wife…
  • Jeff S: Midsize trucks are easier to park and fit in most garages. I believe we might see more compact trucks with...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber