By on December 7, 2010

Though the US auto market is up 11 percent this year, Honda’s sales are up only 3.6 percent compared to last year’s weak performance. That means the Motor Company isn’t even keeping up with the growth rates of such maligned brands as Lincoln (+7.4%), Chrysler (+16%) and Mazda (+9.8%). But Team Honda isn’t sweating the details. After all, the Civic and CR-V are nearing the end of their model cycles, while the Accord is a year and a half from its replacement. And, as Honda USA’s Executive VP John Mendel tells Automotive News [sub], at Honda

no one talks about share. Chasing share gets you into bad habits. We set a business plan to sell a certain number of cars. We don’t set the plan based on an assumed share. We plan to grow 2 or 3 percent in volume in good times, and bad times. And there are times we’ll give share back.
Which is the kind of thing you’d expect to hear from an exec in Mendel’s situation… unfortunately, there are troubling indicators on the horizon that could cause Honda’s “bad times” to go on longer than anyone expected.
Where to begin? For one, competition from Hyundai is a big problem, giving lie to our claim that Hyundai had replaced Honda as the preeminent mass-market motor technology leader. According to the brand consideration measurers at Compete, Hyundai began attracting more consideration than Honda last Summer, even though Honda’s sales are about double Hyundais. Whether there’s a causal link between the loss of technological leadership and the shift in consideration patterns isn’t clear, but it’s certainly not a good indicator for Honda.
Of course, Honda’s defense is that new products are coming… unfortunately, Honda’s recently-launched vehicles have hardly set the world on fire. The Crosstour has been a a minor disaster, first causing a Facebook flap, then settling into a mediocre 2,350-odd sales per month average.  The Insight has fared even worse, falling well short of its Prius-competitor pretensions, as it moved a mere 19k units and change so far this year (Honda had planned on 60k-80k). And don’t get us started on the weak response to Honda’s CR-Z hybrid coupe. With the Fit, Civic and Accord all down compared to last year, Honda’s minimal growth is largely being fueled by mediocre-selling new models.
One bright spot in the mess: large vehicles. Pilot and Odyssey are growing healthily, and over at Acura, the trucks are literally carrying the weight. MDX and RDX are up 46% and 51% respectively, while Acura’s cars (including the recently-refreshed TL and TSX) are stuck in neutral, improving only by single digits. Indeed, Honda sees trucks as the way out of its short-term plight, and it increased truck production back in August… although even that was on the late side. Says Mendel:
We had the capacity. We saw a blip in the truck market, but we wanted to make sure it was sustainable, so we were six months late
And where there are trucks being sold, there are incentives: though still below industry averages (thanks to Detroit), Honda’s incentives are at an all-time high. And underlying all this chaos is a growing problem with inventory allocation that’s starting to grate on Honda’s dealers.
Honda dealers are having trouble providing shoppers with the vehicles they want. Honda’s inventory and allocation system was designed when Honda had far fewer nameplates and trim levels, and the model proliferation has quickly outstripped the system’s ability to let dealers order the exact vehicles they want…
Dealers say they could hit sales targets if Honda would fix its inventory and allocation system. The system, called MOVE (for market-oriented vehicle environment) was rolled out in 2001. Honda has promised an update in 12 to 18 months.

Oregon dealer Theis, a 25-year Honda veteran, said increasingly complicated model proliferation has taxed the current MOVE system. It’s about more than just days’ supply on a dealer’s lot going toward turn-and-earn; it determines what vehicles can be ordered at a particular time.

Large and small dealers agree that Honda’s inventory, allocation and manufacturing systems are not properly aligned, requiring a combination of mathematics and luck to get the right cars in stock.

The new Odyssey is an example of what frustrates dealers. With pricey options such as rear-seat video, power tailgate and leather seats, the new van has many more trim levels and features. Dealers believe they are better judges of local tastes than are factory reps.

“Right now we can choose within certain build constraints each month, but that can still be reconfigured by the factory,” said Theis. “Dealers say if they could get the cars they want, and get more local control, they could grow.”

So, in a year and a half, Honda could have a new Civic, a new CR-V, a new Accord and a new, improved inventory management system… but that’s a huge amount of problems to fix in 18 months. Meanwhile, with GM, Hyundai, Subaru and Ford roaring up the sales charts, nobody is sitting around waiting for Honda to snap out of its funk. Meanwhile, Honda’s got just a few strengths to keep it going: its inventories remain low, and its loyalty remains high. But if it doesn’t start fixing everything else, Honda could just find itself out of favor with consumers, dependent on trucks, and unable to deliver the cars consumers want to where they’re in demand. Does this sound anything like the Honda Americans have grown to love?
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71 Comments on “The Curious Case Of Honda’s Missing Mojo...”

  • avatar

    Honda ought to be worried about the replacement CR-V and Civic.  Every recent new vehicle has been ugly and considered a half step below what it replaced.  The new Fit does not have the same owner enthusiasm as the old one.  Ditto about every other line. 

    Minivans may be a bright spot, but not compared to where they should be.  Honda has driven off a lot of customers with transmission problems that were very un-Honda like.  Honda allowed these problems to fester for 5-7 years before being (we are told) really fixed.  In all other respects, Honda’s vans have outshone Toyota and Chrysler, and should have buried them long ago, but have still not closed the deal.  Chrysler, in particular, continues to lead the segment.

    I have a lot of good feelings for Honda and own an 07 Fit that I have been really happy with.  But frankly, few of their newer offerings really excite me.  I don’t think I am alone.

    • 0 avatar

      My parents, longtime Honda/Toyota devotees just bought an ’11 CR-V Special Edition, knowing full well that a new model is coming within a year, because they figured the redesign would be just as hideous as Honda’s other new models.  That’s the same reason they bought a dumpy ’05 Camry LE…it looked better than the concurrent butt-ugly Accord.
      I’ve got an ’02 Honda Civic sedan as my commuter.  It’s slow and frumpy, but it was also my first car.  It’s solid, dependable and even borderline fun to drive.  Even when it was new, I could tell that Honda was starting to lose the spark that made their cars so special.  Cheapness and blandness was creeping in, and the ugliness would soon follow.  Nevertheless, I’ll do everything in my power to keep it alive for years to come, but when it dies, it certainly won’t be replaced by another Honda.  I used to think Honda came closer than anyone to offering the perfect car; now that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

    • 0 avatar

      No offense to your parents, but to me the current CRV has one of the ugliest front ends I’ve seen.  It’s a really nice car and looks good from most angles, but the double grill and “underbite” front bumper ruin it for me.  It won’t suprise me if the next one is hideous, but in my opinion the current one ain’t beautiful either.

    • 0 avatar

      Amen, poltergeist. Every time I spot a CR-V, which is too often, I just can’t see what the stylists were thinking. I fail to see how it could look any worse than it does. I want to ask the owner, “Did they let you see the car before you bought it?” Creatures with double mouths belong in the depths of dreams, as subconscious demons to disturb our sleep.

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t get me wrong, the CR-V has a goofy-looking front end.  And my folks thought so, too.  But after the Accord, Pilot and Odyssey redesigns, I sincerely doubt the next CR-V will look any better.  It’s still a nice, functional vehicle and at least it doesn’t have the spare on the back anymore, like the Rav4.  Or still have a freakin’ four-speed like the Forester.

    • 0 avatar

      I think the newest CRV is a really nice vehicle.  I’ve been hoping for awhile that Honda would fix the front end.  I’m not in the market for that type of veh, but if I was, I couldn’t see myself buying one because of that and the lack of a manual trans.  

      In fact the Elephant would be a lot more useful for me and my hobbies/lifestyle.  For the same reason (styling/lack of M/T) it’s not on my list.  

    • 0 avatar

      I’m curious about what the next redesign of the Accord will bring since it’s been stated on TTAC as well as other sites that they make a decent looking car every 2nd generation. Will it go on a diet? Who knows?  I’m still trying to decide if I like bigger cars or smaller cars especially since I’m a single 22 y/o dude. I found it funny that my previous Accord Coupe was listed as having less interior space than my previous Accord sedan (95) even though it was classified as mid-size while the sedan was classified as a compact. I like the current US Accord Coupe, but not the sedan. I liked the GEN VII and owned one for 3 years (again a coupe – the sedan does nothing for me).

    • 0 avatar

      @ Wheatridger & poltergeist,

      I think the CR-V is the top-selling small SUV in the U.S. and it  can probably sell a few more if not limited by supply problem. Clearly, not many Americans share your view.

  • avatar

    Well, how about every Honda launch since 2008 has been a failure.  The new Accord is a far inferior product to what it replaces- instead of Honda continuing the Passat-with-reliability mentality that the 03-07 Accord had, they went with the bloat+decontent strategy. The current-gen Civic is a year overdue for replacement, though it has been the bright spot of Honda’s lineup, and is still arguably the class leader.
    There’s really no excuse. In 2007 Honda looked like it was poised to dominate the minute Toyota faltered. They had huge momentum even through the recession thanks to the Civic, and the Fit was well regarded. If the new Civic goes the same route the Accord did, you can stick a fork in them.

    Oh, and don’t forget Honda’s embarrassing attempts at Hybrids.

  • avatar

    Mendel said – “Chasing share gets you into bad habits.”
    You said – “Which is the kind of thing you’d expect to hear from an exec in Mendel’s situation…”

    True, but are we really criticizing him for not overbuilding capacity that will eventually come back to bite Honda in the butt? Huge fleet sales are a sign of overcapacity and Honda isn’t one of the big offenders.

    I’m having a hard time criticizing Honda (or any car maker) for following a strategy that is likely to keep them healthy over the long run.

    To your point, they’ve got other problems they need to address, but I hope they don’t go nuts trying to “grab market share” if it means they just end up with too much production capacity, lower quality and all other possible pitfalls of being in a big hurry to chase short term goals.

    • 0 avatar

      +1.  Better to make a tidy profit building quality vehicles than to get over your head and drown chasing market share.

    • 0 avatar

      I’d like to see how much of the ‘revival’ of sales belongs to the come back of fleet sales. Honda does not have a corporate fleet sale program and is not active in the rental market.

      I read that as late as July this year, the jump in sales compare against last year was primarily due to increase in fleet sales. Retail sales didn’t actually turn a corner till as recent as a couple of months ago.

      BTW, 2009 retail sales of passenger cars:
      #1 : HONDA ACCORD 272.462
      #2 : Toyota Camry 262.381
      #3 : HONDA CIVIC 235.624
      #4 : Toyota Corolla 215.943
      #5 : HONDA CR-V 179.630

  • avatar

    I’m a Honda owner, and I perceive the company as a fiasco in progress. We can pick any of several poster children for this, but the just-cancelled Element will do nicely.

    The excellent concept of the Element was delivered to the market with severe flaws, including rear doors that won’t open unless the front doors are opened first, awkward seatbelts, seating for only four, not enough power, and a rear box that was about 18″ too short.

    Full points to Honda for giving the concept a try, and the deficiencies are not fatal to a first effort because they can be dealt with — put sliding doors on it (like the Transit Connect), drop in a small diesel, stretch the back and you’ve got a winner that would be sitting in my driveway if it had ever been built. It would be just perfect for my outdoor activities, and I picture myself at a frosty trailhead, suiting up in comfort in the commodious back.

    What did Honda do? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. They left it out there on the market year after year, unchanged, until its flaws killed it. That’s today’s Honda MoCo in a nutshell: fat, lazy, uninspired, and afraid to admit a screwup.

    The best today’s Honda is capable of is a beancounting Insight, or pushing out an Accord with a messy dash that, even worse, looks from 50 yards like a dozen other cars. When Honda finally goes on the block and gets absorbed by some holding company, it will be because nobody cared about it anymore.

    • 0 avatar

      Your description of the ideal Element intrigues me because it’s right up my alley.
      Mazda5 is the only thing close to what you describe, and Mazda had to all-but-invent the segment in the US (and has basically failed). Imagine if Honda had put some market muscle behind that notion.

    • 0 avatar

      My wife and I started looking at Elements when they first came out, revisiting every time we considered a car purchase, and repeatedly passed on the Element because we thought surely Honda would come out with a slightly longer, perhaps slightly wider version that would better suit our needs (our thinking: good for our two dogs or good for our gear but not good for both at once, should we want to travel with both). Now it’s been canned, and I want to know, what exactly was the point of that exercise, Honda, if you weren’t going to build on it?
      They could at least replicate the ’87 Civic Wagon that we had when we first got married (and was rear-ended three weeks later)–still perhaps the most versatile vehicle we’ve ever owned. That generation of Civic was the last that held any interest for me–newer Civics are competent but not memorable, and while “competent” beats “memorably bad”, I guess, mere competence without personality won’t keep my attention.

  • avatar

    Speaking of bad habits, at one time I was hoping to see another 2 door Civic with a hatch. 

    After seeing the $30k ish Crosstour in the flesh, I fear that Civic with a hatch will be another dog.
    I know that station wagons are passe in the US, but honestly the Crosstour should have been a square back and a hatch on the two door Accord would have been a more welcomed addition than what we received with the 4 door Crosstour.
    The Element needed tweaking long ago and the CR-V lost its crisp look with the latest body shell.  Any chance of fitting a five or six speed manual transmission to the CR-V?  I didn’t think so.

    • 0 avatar

      Given the other comments this has probably been stated, but I REALLY like the Euro Accord wagon (which I still think looks more like a TL than a TSX). I’d like something with a little hauling ability for the few times I need it, but don’t feel like jumping on the CUV/SUV bandwagon.

      This has been edited from my initial comment.

    • 0 avatar

      Nevermind. I could have sworn the TL was more similar.

  • avatar

    IMHO….Its that nasty old “perception gap” thing. Toyota and Honda were on top of the world four years ago. Folks shunned the domestics because they believed that Honda and Toyota were somehow building perfect cars. They all believed that the dealers, were  saints and the vehicles never broke down.

     Along come a nasty old recession and folks started keeping thier cars longer..Whoa!.. now these so called perfect cars started to break. Not because they were crap,they were just normal mass assembled cars.

     So now the new kid in town shows up….Hyundai/Kia……Well everybody says “we found another perfect car,and you buy one for less money” “Who needs Honda anyway ”


    • 0 avatar

      Yes, I think Honda’s mojo has been handed to Hyundai/Kia.  Toyota is next.

    • 0 avatar

      @gslippy & mikey: I think Hyundai has already stolen Toyota’s mojo. They’re finally getting around to sweeping up Honda’s also.
      Case in point: Recently a coworker started having trouble with his Chrysler minivan and I got “the question”, what’s a good car these days? Even before I could get a word out, he starts in how he likes the Hyundai Sonata, the Elantra and even  a car I thought could be the Genesis. He wasn’t sure what it was.  A 20 minute conversation ensued, not once mentioning Honda, Toyota, GM or anyone else except Ford. The other car on his mind is the Ford Fusion, but he liked the zoomy (his words, not mine) styling of the Sonata better.

  • avatar

    Gas prices are going up again. Honda will be sitting pretty with their efficient old Civics and Accords.

    • 0 avatar

      No prettier than Hyundai.

    • 0 avatar

      Model for model, Honda sells about twice as many cars. How pretty is a new Sonata that has been recalled for steering shaft failure? That accounts for 140,000 customers that know what they gave up by getting a Hyundai instead of a Japanese car. They have yet to prove that they’re immune to the sort of problems that come with growth combined with the ambition to use technology as a marketing ploy.

    • 0 avatar

      ‘Nuff said.

      Recalls affect all manufacturers. Don’t use that erroneous argument again, please.

    • 0 avatar

      from your link:

      The automaker said it was concerned about the use of non-Honda branded brake fluid. Honda said that its own brake fluid contains polymers that act as lubricants. The use of non-Honda brake fluid could cause a rubber seal in the brake master cylinder to dry out, possibly resulting in a fluid leak, the company said.
      “A leak of brake fluid could lead to a change in brake fluid feel and, overtime, a degradation in braking performance, increasing the risk of a crash,” said Honda, in its recall notice.

      Now compare that with STEERING SHAFT FAILURE. Recalls are not all the same.

    • 0 avatar

      No doubt that some recalls are not as serious as others, but Honda has had some doosies too.  Like the drivers airbag capsule that “may” fracture upon deployment and send metal shards into the drivers face in a crash… 

  • avatar

    A stagnating pie is being sliced more finely over time, as segments break out into smaller slivers and manufacturers fine tune their product offerings.
    Honda is far from flawless (killing the Element instead of revising it?), but they have always stated that they prefer profitability over market share.

    • 0 avatar

      I liked the Element quite a bit, but I don’t blame them for killing it. The problem is that they haven’t revealed a great new idea to replace it. Maybe the next CR-V will be more utilitarian than the current one. I doubt it though, as the current one is the best selling SUV. The Element had run its course, and where would they have gone with it? The 190 hp Accord EX engine would have been nice, but it would still be a recognizable and aging shape. The other alternative is to go with a similarly styled vehicle with V6 power and a bigger footprint. I don’t think anyone needs that either. I guess their current niche car is the CR-Z, which might wind up looking less silly if we have $5 gas in July. It looks silly now, but most Honda plans make sense if you think energy will be a luxury good in the near future.

    • 0 avatar

      Man… I logged in to reply to this, and saw your bogus argument above, without realizing the same person posted both.


      You’re unfairly generalizing. All of Honda’s moves make sense with respect to gas? I suppose you conveniently forgot the V6-only Crosstour, which is wider, taller, longer, and much heavier than the Accord on which it’s based. Or the fact that they’ve recently confirmed a next-generation Ridgeline, possibly with a V8 thrown at it. Or the fact that the CR-Z hybrid economy car, at 35, gets worse combined MPG than the ’12 Elantra, the ’11 Cruze, the ’11 Fiesta, the ’12 Focus (is slated to get), and only ONE more than the 274 hp Sonata 2.0t. None of which seat only two people, or have any of the other major concessions the CR-Z has.

      Listen, I hate to sound like I have an axe to grind in a potential Honda vs. Hyundai fight, because I don’t. I do personally like Hyundai better than Honda in both model-to-model comparisons and in their overall lineups, but you’re the one that cracked this can of worms open. Prematurely, it seems.

    • 0 avatar

      Not everyone is ignorant enough to believe EPA numbers, or want a car saddled with uselessly tall gearing and an unpleasant shift strategy. Read the fuel economy achieved by magazines that actually look at fuel used against miles covered. The CR-Z achieves 50% better real world fuel consumption than the 1.4T Cruze, for example. The Fiesta achieved the worst real world number of any of its competitors in a comparison test while having the highest EPA numbers. It is funny how heavy cars with high gearing don’t beat light cars with gearing chosen to allow an engine not to slip below its torque peak if desired when it comes to real world mileage, or driving enjoyment. Nobody’d use inelegant tricks if it weren’t for the CAFE standard, and if there weren’t enough people who fall for the number on the sticker.

    • 0 avatar


      ” the fact that the CR-Z hybrid economy car, at 35, gets worse combined MPG than the ’12 Elantra, the ’11 Cruze, the ’11 Fiesta, the ’12 Focus (is slated to get), and only ONE more than the 274 hp Sonata 2.0t.  ”

      Worse ‘combined’ MPG than those you named, really??? How true is it?

      May be the best way to avoid being viewed as having an axe to grind against a particular automaker is to get the fact straight.

      12 Elantra (& ’11 Fiesta) EPA 29/40 Fuel est for a yr (55% city/45% hwy) 363 gal.
      Cruze LS A/T 22/35 454 gal.
      Cruze eco A/T 26/37 400
      Cruze LT/LTZ A/T 24/36 425
      Sonata 200hp A/T 22/35 454

      CR-Z A/T 35/39 327 gal.

      It seems CR-Z use the least fuel using EPA est.

      It seems many need to find out what’s ‘fact’ and what’s ‘myth’.

      Many would argue that it may not have a high performance figure, but it’s a moot point, because it is designed to be as fuel efficient as possible while still having a bit of fun (Elantra may have almost as good fuel consumption est. basing on EPA but I think, basing on early comments on its steering, not many would want to choose it to travel on a twisty country road. Furthermore, if the driver of CR-Z is stuck in heavy traffic like many during their daily commute, fuel consumption can be further reduced using economy mode.)

      I think ’12 Focus EPA figure is not published yet.

  • avatar

    If I recall correctly, Honda’s sales weren’t down as much as the others when sales collapsed in 2008-09. So perhaps it’s not getting as much of a “bounce” as other car makers as the market slowly recovers.

    What I see as critical right now for Honda is: 1. get its six-speed transmission in as many vehicles as possible and PLEASE make sure that it’s robust right out of the box; 2. stop diddling around with an el cheapo hybrid (Insight) and an answer-to-a-question-no-one-asked hybrid (CR-Z) and build ONE great, competitive hybrid; 3. dump the Crosstour or fix the styling; 4. decide whether Acura is a true luxury brand, and, if so, build a proper flagship.  

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed – CRZ and Insight are stupid and should be dumped, get the 6-speed out pronto, etc.
      My question is this: What happened to the diesels? Why did they talk up bringing out several diesel engines and then quietly dump the idea? That was the type of innovative move that could have really paid off; imagine if they had finally pulled off a 30mpg diesel minivan, an industry first (which the “new and improved” Odyssey still can’t quite manage). Instead they continue to fool around with half-baked hybrid tech that simply doesn’t deliver fuel economy that is competitive enough.

  • avatar

    Save for the Fit, Honda has grown to be gimmicky. Goofy styling, goofy dashboards.  The Crosstour.  The too big Accord.  The confused CR-Z. Honda needs to get back to basics.

  • avatar
    Matthew Danda

    I’d have an Element, but I need 5-passenger capacity.
    I’d have an Accord, but I got a killer deal on a Fusion instead.
    I’d have an Odyssey, but I got a Sienna for several thousand less.
    I’d have an Insight, but it is just too darn small.

  • avatar

    I don’t know how much of a factor this is, but I’ve heard quite a bit of anecdotal testimony that Honda’s dealers are still in the order-taking vs. working for sales mindset and aren’t making the deals needed to make sales in this weakened economy.  It’s like the upstate NY Krispie Kreme disaster, in which the franchise owner believed the doughnuts would sell themselves…no real ad campaign, no coupons, and no Dunkin-matching coffee.  The KK’s are all gone now, and the arrogant franchise owner now an example of how not to do business.  If Hyundai’s their biggest rival, they’re going to have to humble their sales staff to the level of acknowledging that deals have to be made, and not just having a “take it or leave it” mindset.

    • 0 avatar

      It all depends on the dealer.  Honda has been one of the better dealers I’ve dealt with in the last decade.  The dealer I bought my Civic from back in ’02 quoted me $250 over the phone…easiest deal I ever made.  My folks just got their ’11 CR-V for under invoice.  Meanwhile, the dealer I bought my ’11 Mustang from couldn’t have been more difficult and insulting…I’m still a little irked I didn’t take my business elsewhere.

  • avatar

    They’re in trouble. Hyundai has passed them in interesting engine technology. Plenty of other brands have passed them in standard features, and price. And their reliability isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
    So… Why buy a Honda?

  • avatar
    Amendment X

    The NA Acura TSX is sold as a Honda Accord in Europe. The NA Honda Accord is unique to the NA market. It is larger in every dimension, heavier, uglier, and overall a worse vehicle. You CANNOT PURCHASE the “real” (Euro Accord) in NA without purchasing it in Acura form. That’s stupid. This has been going on since the mid-2000s, I believe.
    When are manufacturers going to learn that manufacturing NA-specific vehicles is a bad idea? Ford has the right idea – build a world car and if it’s good, it will sell. The current TSX should be the NA Accord. The current Accord could have been launched as an all-new model (think Toyota Avalon competitor).
    Honda seems particularly INEPT at spreading their platforms across brands efficiently. Remember the Civic-based RSX? Killed in 2006. How about the S2000? Would have made a hell of an Acura. Killed in 09. Acura RL has been a dud for as long as I can remember. Oh, but look at it’s more attractive Honda twin (not available in the US, of course)
    The Fit has been Honda’s best launch since the Civic (maybe because it is the spiritual successor to the Civic?).
    I hate to see this happening to my favorite car company, but they just don’t have the mojo anymore.

    • 0 avatar

      You are right about the US only models.  Honda had an Accord wagon from europe and the Odyssey from Japan and Australia.  Yet they give us the Crosstour.  Go to Honda Australia’s website and see if you don’t like their Odyssey better than our Crosstour?  Sure, its a bit bigger, but it would be like the old Honda – hitting a niche where nobody else is competing and doing it really well.

  • avatar

    Honda lost its focus about a decade ago and its products show it.  The Accord is getting large and flaccid; the Crosstour is a disaster.  I have only seen one or two on the road-ditto for the Insight.
    The Element seems to sum up everything that’s wrong with Honda;when it was released in 2003 it was supposed to appeal to Gen-X males-it missed its intended market completely and seems to have been driven entirely by a much older group of drivers including a large number of women.
    I drove one for about six and a half years and generally liked it, except the rear doors were of marginal usefullness-the front doors had to be opened to access the rear doors, its fuel economy was marginal and the road noise excessive.  I felt they should have taken it in the direction of the Ford Transit, with the emphasis on personal rather than commercial use. Instead,  Honda killed it.  Honda’s current products seem uninspired , almost as it the company is trying to be another Toyota offering totally bland products.

  • avatar

    I feel that a standout moment was when the Accord was classified as a large car.  In fact, it may have been the turning point for the day Hondas were seen a chunky, bloated vehicles.  Growing up, I thought of Honda as an engine company and believed that the cars were built around those engines.  That was probably naive but it was plausible.  It’s no longer plausible.  Especially after they killed the S2000.
    Other possible turning points: losing the prelude, the day the civic was larger than the original accord, the ridgeline…

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan
      Look at that list.  Would you have guessed a decade or say 15 years ago that the Honda Accord would be on that list?
      My co-worker has a 2005 Accord and recently test drove new ones with the same 4cyl she has in her current one (which she is VERY happy with.)  The verdict?  The engine is strained and she won’t be buying a new one.  If she has to get a V6, she might as well look at CPO Acuras.

  • avatar

    We have two Hondas: a 2002 Odyssey and a 2005 Accord (manual). These are both very solid, essentially trouble-free cars that perform their intended purposes admirably. But the only new Honda I could see buying is the Fit. The new Accord is just too big. The new Civic is just too big. The Crosstour is just too ugly. The new Odyssey is too big and too ugly. With the notable exception of the Fit, all of Honda’s current line-up shows that they are following the market rather than leading.
    I’m generally a contrarian; I think Honda’s smartest move would be to build a true station wagon about the size of the first Accord wagon. It could be built on the same platform as the current CR-V and be offered in either 2WD or “real time” AWD. Offer it with auto and stick. Keep manufacturing costs (and consumer price) down by having just one engine and a minimal selection of trim levels and colors. Alternatively, scale it down a bit and release it as a Civic.

  • avatar

    I’ve said it before, so prob don’t need to go over it too much again…
    I grew up in the late 90’s.  We (my friends) ALL drove Hondas.  And they were passed down from parents Hondas, and we LOVED them.  91 Accord was mine.  With a stick.  Such a fun car, in a light-hearted, zippy, peppy fashion.  Others had Civics, and one or two Integras around.  They never broke.  They were just fun, functional, economical cars with enough style, enough class, and enough sportiness all together.
    Then, at some point it went wrong.  My pops loves little coupes.  He bought an Acura RSX Type S in 2002.  Still has it.  I like the car a lot, but it just doesn’t have that “pep” that the Integra had inside.  A co-worker bought an early 2000’s Accord, and it just didn’t feel like the old one.  It was more serious somehow.  And again, lost that stuff my 91 had.  An aunt bought a 2002 Civic EX coupe.  I had friends with 92’s and 96’s.  They were really fun.  Her’s is really a commuter car with little of that light on the feet feel.
    Basically, after the RSX, 2002 Civic, and Accord, I was done with Honda.  Nobody I know has purchased one since 2005.  I looked at the TSX (1st Gen) and that one still had it somehow.  A real blast with the stick.  Reminded me of that old 91, but with much nicer materials, a NAV, leather, etc.  Loved it.  I NEARLY bought it, but held off a bit longer and got a GTI instead (wasn’t ready for 4 doors).  So, I guess for me, when the new TSX arrived, that finished them off.  Honestly, I don’t know that I would even bother heading to a Honda dealer if looking now.  I probably would just because I’m a “try em all” kinda guy….but I used to tell people when they wanted the best to just go straight to the Honda dealer and skip everyone else.  They were just as good as a Toyota reliability wise, but more fun to live with.
    But that’s the auto industry.  Ford was #1, passed by GM, who eventually got passed by Toyota, who’s falling behind, and everyone is worried about a company that was basically non-existent 25 years ago.  Its the way it is.  To think Honda is any different (like we all thought Toyota was) is foolish.
    Its just too bad.  We all have soft spots for the cars we loved in our youth.  Its a shame to seem them not anywhere near where they were.

    • 0 avatar

      Funny, because some of us that go back farther with Honda, (my folk’s first was a ’77 CVCC Civic hatchback) think the ’90 Accord was the beginning of the “fun” being lost from Honda.  My Dad’s ’88 Accord Lxi and my ’88 Integra were so much lighter on their feet and tossable (dare I say more “fun”) than the models that replaced them in ’90.   

      I have a first gen TSX because to me it has a bit of the old mojo, but it’s still a tank compared to ’88 Integra that it replaced. 

      I’ve come to except that the great majority of U.S. buyers want more/bigger/heavier when it comes to buying a new car.  Honda is just giving most people what they demand.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve got a 1991 civic still. Really great car. I’m probably going to have to give it up as my wife wants airbags, but the way it drives it’s good for another 20 years — although the wiring harness is starting to have “issues”, and i have had to repair the main relay. I’ve got a 2007 fit and I love that car too. On loan to my kid. The Fit when we got it was a well-tested, 10-year-old design as I understand it. The redesigned Fit really misses the mark. The Fit was a worthy successor to the Civic, nice and practical and fun; the new one looks like it was tarted up in yet another attempt to grab the 20-somethings. The cabin moved from a good functional design to some attempt at cuteness — e.g. WTF is up with the HVAC controls? No improvement, in my view.
      Then there’s the legroom issue. My legs are old. So, much as I love the fit, the small size of the cabin means after about 90 minutes I’m in serious pain. The 20-year-old Civic, in fact, has more legroom!
      And no Honda car that’s reasonable size is better (the Pilot and Ridgeline are not in the reasonable list). Sitting in the CR-V or Element, I can’t see the top of the instrument cluster as it is blocked by the steering wheel from my angle, and my knees still have to stay on either side of the steering wheel. I can’t stretch my legs at all. I could almost accept this if the mileage were great, but people report LOWER mileage on the Element than I routinely got with my old, V6, big, Chevy Astro. Something wrong there — the Astro had far more room than the Element. I’ve seen reports of 17 MPG on an Element, with its 4 passenger capability; the Astro in 13 years NEVER got less than 21.
      What’s interesting: in the previous “US IS DOOMED!” crisis of the 80s, we all pointed to Japan as a country that would be immune to what we saw happening to the US car companies. The Japanese, we figured, would never outsource to cut labor costs, and they would not lower their quality, and they would not build bland, boring, cars. Rebadging? Never gonna happen. Oops. We were wrong: it just took them longer, but the Japanese auto makers seem to be going down the tubes the same way the US makers did decades ago. It’s a sad thing to watch.But it makes me feel better, perversely; seems we’re all human after all.

    • 0 avatar
      Amendment X

      “We were wrong: it just took them longer, but the Japanese auto makers seem to be going down the tubes the same way the US makers did decades ago. It’s a sad thing to watch.But it makes me feel better, perversely; seems we’re all human after all.”
      I guess so. Next it will be the Koreans, then the Indians/Chinese, then… it’s anybody’s guess. When cultures/empires/nations/corporations/people reach “the top,” they slowly atrophy, and then die. Such is the circle of life, I suppose.

    • 0 avatar

      Man. If you think the early 2000s Accord was a massive step from the ’91 (it certainly was larger, heavier, and more “mature”), you should test a 2007 and a 2008 back to back. Aside from the unbecoming engine and road noise, you’d think they were from different planets – forget the same car company seperated by one model year. Different species seemingly designed them.

      The Civic is less stark, but still noticeable. I recently drove a friend’s ’95 5-speed DX. Even without any creature comforts, it was a truly high-quality vehicle, a real pleasure to drive (140k miles, one owner, not that well cared for). The current Civic is fat, loud, cheap, ugly, and hateful in comparison. No fun to be had at a Honda showroom anymore.

  • avatar

    There really is no excuse for Honda to be in this position other than not listening to its base. Honda has better products in the Japanese market that they should be selling here. There is no need for a Crosstour when a seven speed paddle shift AWD Stream RS-Z would have done nicely
    The Crossroad would’ve made a great Element replacement
    And in Japan they never forgot the third gen Accord

  • avatar

    I feel the same way as many others do………..Honda is lost in the woods and sells some truly boring, uninspired cars and motorcycles.  I worked at a Honda motorcycle dealer while in college in the mid 70’s and thought Honda could do no wrong………….they were the leaders.  I’ve owned probably 30 new Honda bikes and 8 Honda cars since then.  They currently have one of the lamest motorcycle line ups in the USA and nothing other than the Civic/CRV is something I would be interested in for a future purchase.  The Acura line is hideous and offends my eyes every time I see a late model on the street.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    We presently own two Honda products, an ’03 Accord and an ’06 TSX. Nothing in Honda’s present lineup is appealing. The new Acura nose job is simply horrible. The newest Accord is too big and too weird looking.
    We are not family sedan shopping at the moment, but if we were, the Fusion & Sonata would be at the top or our test drive list.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    “Meanwhile, Honda’s got just a few strengths to keep it going: its inventories remain low, and its loyalty remains high.”
    Also, they have been very conservative financially, have not issued a lot of debt, are not in hock to the UAW, and are generally profitable. They can hold out for a long time.

  • avatar

    Notice that there is no Honda on the Ward’s 10 best engine list for 2011.  Hyundai is there with the 5.0 L, 427 hp Tau V8.  Ford is there, even Dodge is there.
    I have the 4.6L Tau V8 and I purely love that engine.  I can’t believe what another roughly 50 hp would be like.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    The original Odyssey was perfect for me. A simple Honda 4 cylinder you can coax to glory, a sunroof and decent stereo.

    Oh well.

  • avatar

    Honda really lost its funk when it started focusing on its hybrid fascinations.  With the Insight, Accord Hybrid, Civic Hybrid, G2 Insight, and now CR-Z (and ROW Fit Hybrid) – Honda has been poorly distracted chasing Toyota’s halo hybrid and ignored its bread and butter cars for a good part of a decade.  Toyota is also suffering from this but they are a much larger company with more resources.
    I miss the Honda of old – do what people say can’t be done with engineering marvels and great driving dynamics put into all their cars.  I’m waiting for the day that Honda’s management will once again be reinvigorated with newly promoted engineers with a pulse for excitement.

  • avatar

    -Is the Civic dash the new unforgivable styling sin that the “Bangle butt” was?
    -I think the biggest problem with honda is they used to care about certain things like the motor and tranny (not that kind ) weight and function they were distinct and brave in a intelligent way. the S2000 NSX, element, original insight. a calculated, smart risk. the insight and CR-Z are sloppy. they knew 4 years ago their hybrid system was not efficient enough to be a long term solution.
    -Acura spawned the Legend and Integra and the RSX. when i see a Legend, still over 10 years later then i think that is a sexy car with presence. what is an acura? how do you define the difference between their three cars besides price and the TSX is slighty smaller.
    -they need to take careful stock of what the hell they are doing. if they fumble the civic, their lifeblood,their crown jewel.(which it appears they will based on spy shots) game over(a long, sad, drawn out game over) customers are fickle and eventually even the most loyal will leave you (look at GM) when your cars are ugly, no longer a bargain in ownership cost, no longer lead in efficiency/technology and by in large most manufactures have obtained parity in the dept of reliability.

  • avatar

    OMG, it’s even worse than you think. I saw photos of the new ’12 Civic from an inside source, and it basically looks like a smaller ’08 Accord combined with a Corolla. It’s really that bad. On the other hand, the interior and dash are a little more angular and possibly better looking. Maybe first impressions are incorrect, but if not Honda may be getting ready to truly jump the shark.

  • avatar

    Honda fails becuase of engines and piss pooor design. I can walk into the dealerships of VW, Audi, Hyundai, GM, Ford, or BMW and get a car with a kickass DI turbocharged motor that returns good fuel economy. Honda offers nothing like that except in the RDX, and they seem to think that’s just fine.  Oh, and how could I foget that they sell product like that crosstour abomination. Who ever designed that should be terminated, and by “terminated”, I don’t mean “fired”.

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t even think of comparing VW engines to Honda’s.  The Civic Si and S2000 get 100 HP per liter WITHOUT turbo charging and check any lists on reliability and the Honda engines will be rated high above the Germans.  Who dominates F1 engines?  I was never a Honda fanboy until I owned one (2005 Accord EX V6 6-speed) because Ford stopped making SVTs in anything except Mustangs (owned plenty of those in the past, like to think v6, turbo 4, etc. is the new wave of performance) and it was available at a reasonable price.  110,000 miles later, I can say it’s fast, comfortable and bullet (if not Bullitt) proof, even if somewhat expensive to maintain compared to, say, Fords, part for part.

  • avatar

    I’m a homer for Honda, always have been.   It’s been said that the only thing constant in this world is change.   The bottom line is that the competition is “outhondaing” Honda.  Lemme explain.
    You want a decent “Honda” minivan?  It exists in the Mazda5 AKA the true successor to the 1995-1998 Honda Ody.  The new Ody is a wonderful vehicle, but it’s not a Honda.  It’s not small, nimble, efficient.  It’s a really nice Chrysler.
    Want a CR-V?  Pick any of the small utes available with a MANUAL transmission and more industrial interior, much like my 2000 CR-V.
    How about a nice small Honda, reasonably priced, with stripper models all the way to full on sporty and optioned out models?  A decade ago that was easy.  Buy a Civic, DX, LX, or EX.  Now?  Well the Hyundai Accent, both current and upcoming 2012, fit the bill.  The entry price for a Honda right now is over $15K.   You can get an Accent for under $10K and, reasonably equipped, you can get it for under $12K.  Do some shopping and you can get a loaded SE for less than the starting price for a Fit.  That’s crazy, but true.  Furthermore, while the car rags bitch about the Accent, I have driven the Accent and Fit back to back and as much as it pains me to say it, the Accent is right there with the Fit.  The extra 200Lbs of weight in the Accent is felt as the Accent feels more substantial and quieter at speed.  It blew me a way as I was expecting a garden tractor with a roof and got a car that competes with Fit and, when price is figured in, trumps it outright.  Of course, the rags won’t say that.  It’s hardly popular to say the emperor’s clothes have been misplaced.

    • 0 avatar

      I drove an Accent rental and was pleasantly surprised.
      The interior was Tonka-toy hard-plastic crap but the driving dynamics and refinement were good for the kind of car it is.

    • 0 avatar

      I have a 2010 Accent hatch I commute with (90% highway, 10% twisty fast rural roads).  The only option I got was a/c.  I put in the factory B&M short shifter and the factory DC Sports strut brace.  Both definetely made a difference in the car.  I tell my buddy with a Cooper S that my Accent is a poor man’s Mini because it really is.  The handling is fantastic with a real go-kart feel, the motor/tranny seem well mated and it gets around nice.  Plus I get 36mpg consistently.  Yeah the interior feel cheep and the seats are hard, but for a low priced commuter I couldnt find anything better that was new.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      @pinzgauer, does it have any trouble keeping up with traffic?  (Cruising at 80-85mph on the interstate.)  I’ve been thinking that the Accent 3-door is likely the perfect modern analogue of an 80s VW Rabbit.

    • 0 avatar

      “You want a decent “Honda” minivan?  It exists in the Mazda5 AKA the true successor to the 1995-1998 Honda Ody.  The new Ody is a wonderful vehicle, but it’s not a Honda.  It’s not small, nimble, efficient.  It’s a really nice Chrysler.”
      Except that both the Mazda 5 and original Odyssey sold horribly and the new Ody is the most efficient vehicle in the class. Could you really blame Honda for wanting to build something adequately sized to take on the competition? Toyota did the same thing with the Sienna, after all. Seriously, some of the Honda bashing around here borders on the ridiculous. I guess I never quite realized how far the yearnings of the average “enthusiast” differ from those of most Americans.

  • avatar

    Of the Japanese big three, I like Hondas the best. That said, there’s really nothing in the current line up that has me all that interested. I see Hyundai as the up and coming automaker and they have been grabbing my attention for a while now.
    I was going to be something of a contrarian here and proclaim my affection for the Crosstour, but I have not seen one in person yet. Let’s just say I like the concept of the Crosstour. But, I had an ’80’s Dodge Lancer 4 door hatchback and a Chevy Malibu Maxx as previous cars, so the idea of a mid size or larger car as a 4 door hatchback is something that resonates with me.

  • avatar

    Clearly Honda is no longer interested in being what enthusiasts think of as “Honda”. My personal theory is that, lacking Soichiro’s vision, they simply want to be Toyota…and that being second in these segments is not working. Evidence: Accord = second-rate Avalon. Odyssey = second-rate Sienna. CR-Z = bastard child of Paseo and Prius. Civic = overweight stripper = Corolla. Element = failed xB. Crosstour = worse than Venza, no small feat. S2000, TSX = Supra. Not easy for this Honda owner to say so, but case closed. I’ve moved on.

  • avatar

    I have to admit, I’ve never understood the appeal of most of Honda’s products, cars anyway. They always seemed to be totally without personality, just “driving appliances” as some people put it. Their “styling” has gotten worse over time, more bizarre. I used to think Ford’s styling was bizarre, but Honda and Toyota have taken over as Ford seems to have somehow regained their sanity after nearly 40 years of one ugly vehicle after another. I guess part of why I never understood the whole Honda love is the lack of any RWD vehicles. I have no real interest in FWD 4cyl cars.
    I work next door to a Honda dealer, and I see the cars going in and out, and they really have some unattractive cars on the lot right now. I had my new camcorder at work, and it amused the hell out of me when it’s facial recognition kept locking onto the front of many of the new Hondas going in and out of the lot. The Acura lot down the road has even uglier stuff on the lot, and the face recognition locks onto almost everything there.

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