By on July 7, 2016

1985 Honda Accord, Image: Honda via NetCarShow

Electric automaker Tesla Motors has collected more than 400,000 deposits from customers for its 2018 Model 3 sedan, despite having little more than rough renderings of the car to show prospects. This is a remarkable achievement that speaks to its groundbreaking products and the cult-like following of Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

People standing in line to put down deposits and then be willing to wait for a hot car is not without precedent. I sold Honda automobiles during the 1980s and the similarities to today’s Teslamania is striking.

Memo to Musk: If you can indeed increase your production five-fold in two years, I am sure you will move 400,000 Model 3s, but most of them won’t go to today’s deposit holders.

Allow me to explain. The scene was Benson Honda in San Antonio. The year was 1984 …

Much like the current, electric-powered Tesla Model S, the 1980s Honda Accord was so far ahead of the competition as to be laughable. No other compact sedan of its time could compete with its combination of value, reliability, driveability and cachet. The American cars of 1984 were the crappy GM J-cars: the Firenza, Skyhawk, Monza and Cimarron. Ford offered the Escort. The other Japanese offerings like the Mazda 626 and Toyota Camry were gaining ground, but only Hondas were consistently sold on a waiting-list-only basis.

The Honda hype in those days was Tesla-like. In 1985, all three Honda models — the Accord, Civic and Prelude — made Car & Driver’s 10Best Cars list. We had terrific national advertising and even better word of mouth. We were the first import automaker to build cars in America. Honda’s Ohio Accord plant opened in 1982.

I worked for Tom Benson, one of the first “mega-dealers’ in the country with around 20 automobile stores in South Texas and New Orleans. He has since sold off most of his dealerships, keeping his Honda and Mercedes-Benz franchises. Benson still owns the New Orleans Saints NFL football team.

Tesla Model 3 Unveil, Image: Tesla Motors

People buying Honda cars in those days were young, upscale, educated and probably the first group to know more about the products than the average Honda salesperson. A national magazine called them “Super Consumers.”

The average home price in San Antonio at the time was around $75,000 and there was no state income tax. Our average commission was between $300 and $600 per car. We closed on Sundays. You are probably thinking we thus attracted the best and brightest salespeople in town.

With regret, allow me to present the five salesmen chosen to sell the 60 Hondas we were allocated each month to those intelligent Honda buyers. Their names have been changed.

Kevin: Recent retired military, keeper of the waiting lists, he used the same pitch with every customer: “Every rich Jew in San Antonio owns the same two cars: a 1964 Mustang and a Honda Accord. And you know why? It’s because they know the value of a dollar.” His spiel actually seemed to sell cars.

Fred: A short, greasy, former top NHRA drag racer who always dressed in grey, from suit to socks to tie. A classic order-taker, Fred made $30,000/year and never stood up as far as we could tell. His pitch: “You wanna buy a Honda? Sit down. Somebody bring me the waiting list!”

John: Over 30 years of peddling cars to lying customers had turned him into our resident curmudgeon. He was hard of hearing. His pitch: “YOU KNOW THESE LITTLE CARS ARE ON A WAITING LIST, DON’T YOU? YOU CAN’T JUST WALK IN AND BUY ONE!” He once walked through a plate-glass window at the Ford store down the street.

Rafael: Quiet, earnest, and did not socialize with the rest of us. He was our most tenacious salesperson. Rafael would spend hours with clients. He would have them lay on the floor with him to look at the Accord’s double-wishbone suspension. He would climb in the trunk to illustrated its roominess. Customers loved him.

Myself: Plucked from the used car lot due to our increased allocations of new Hondas. I was the only salesperson to mirror the demographics of our customers: 30 years old and college educated. I knew and loved the products and listened more than I spoke.

We were a cocky bunch. We made fun of the salespeople at our attached Mazda store as their 626 and GLC only sold to customers unwilling to wait for a Honda. The did have the hot selling RX-7, but they had to endure Tom Benson’s daughter Renee taking several for her own use, totaling at least one of them. (She was in the news in 2015 as she sued her father in a dispute over her mother’s trust, which included controlling interest in the Saints. He in turn canceled her $75,000 per month allowance. I would later learn that dealer’s kids were rich because they all possessed PhD degrees: Papa Has a Dealership.)

Our dealership was charging an average of $500 over MSRP for new Hondas, which meant that any calls we got from Houston or Austin customers meant an automatic sale as retailers in those markets were truly ripping peoples’ heads off with additional dealer markups of $2,000. We collected $100 deposits from people to put them on a one- to three-month waiting list for a new Honda.

Cynics called us order-takers and friends marveled at our “easy” jobs. Nothing could be further from the truth. Selling a Honda with nothing to demo or sometimes even nothing to show required imagination. Rafael and I each made twice the income of some of our salespeople because we knew the cars inside and out. We sold the cars, thus our orders would stick.

We would find an Accord in for service to show and amazingly that never backfired, no one asked, “why is it in for service?” I highly suspected that the stealthy Rafael actually went on demo rides in those cars with prospects, a major no-no. We knew where an employee parked her new Prelude. When a load of cars arrived we would call prospects and have them come in to take a look.

ad_honda_accord_hatchback_blue_1982

One of the realities of being an automobile salesperson is that some people automatically hate you, no matter how nice you treat them. With no cars in stock to sell, some people despised Honda dealers’ sales staff even more. “So you don’t want to sell me an Accord today, huh? I will just buy something else then,” was a typical clever line.

About 30 percent of customers would drop off the list and not buy a Honda. The percentage of “dropouts” were directly proportional to the amount of time the salesman spent with the clients on presenting the vehicle. Rafeal and I each had minimal cancellation rates while our lazier staffers would lose more than half.

Now consider those Tesla’s clients being held in abeyance. With a two to four-year waiting list, it’s safe to say that many will cancel their orders due to changing life circumstances or because they bought another car. As for the rest, how many were truly sold on the Model 3 before leaving a deposit? How many were influenced by peer pressure or hype?

It would be interesting to track those people who put deposits down at a Tesla store to find out which salespeople hold on to customers all the way through delivery. I predict that only around 150,000 of those 400,000 original buyers will be driving a Tesla, though each Model 3 produced will certainly be pre-sold.

This assumes that no significant competitive product appears in the next few years. If so, and since that car would be available through a franchised dealer network, Tesla would be in trouble.

Tesla took many of the deposits for the Model 3 online. Thus you may think that my “Cars Are Sold By Salespeople” philosophy is a thing of the past. If so, get off my lawn.

Postscript: In 1986, my odd history of having a college degree and experience working in a Honda dealer led me to achieving my dream of joining American Honda Motor Company. Overnight, I would go from selling the stylish 1986 Accord to customers to allocating them to Honda dealerships.

My first position was as District Sales Manager in Louisiana where I called on Tom Benson’s New Orleans Honda store. All of a sudden, Benson was kissing my butt as I now controlled his flow of cars. Even though we had never met during my three years working for him in San Antonio, I suddenly was riding in his limo and sitting in his box at Saints games.

Next to meeting Soichiro Honda, Mark Stevenson, and the day Daimler dumped Chrysler, it was the best moment of my automotive career.

Steve Lynch is the author of Arrogance and Accords: The Inside Story of the Honda Scandal.

[Images from Honda, Tesla Motors]

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101 Comments on “1984 Honda Accord and 2018 Tesla Model 3: Selling Cars You Cannot See...”


  • avatar

    Laying down deposits DOES NOT EQUAL “buying a car”.

    I wonder how many people will cancel their deposit when they realize supercharging won’t be “free”.

    Or, how many cancellations will occur from people tired of waiting?

    INSTANT GRATIFICATION is the only surefire way to sell a car. I refuse to leave deposits. I buy right off the floor.

    As for Honda, there’s only two models I could see myself in:

    The Crosstour – for the practicality of a hatchback

    The Accord Coupe – cause it looks cool (and I’m usually not into coupes).

    If I had infants, I would choose either car – financed – because if the baby throws up in one I wouldn’t care…but if the baby threw up in my Trackhawk I’d lose my mind.

    I also wouldn’t mind transporting dogs in the seat – where normally I don’t want ANYTHING on my seats.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      We never expected free supercharging. It’s been confirmed by Tesla, so if depositors were going to bolt over it, they would have by now.

    • 0 avatar
      philadlj

      Just FYI, The Crosstour was discontinued for the 2015 model year (FAR fewer articles about it here than the CR-Z). I’m sure there are still “new” Crosstours on Honda lots…their problem was they couldn’t get them off the lots.

      That being said, I saw some of the prettiest photos of the Crosstour accompanying this site’s review of it when it was new. Unfortunately, in the real world one has to look at it from *all* angles, not just the ones that work!

  • avatar
    VoGo

    Great anecdote. As a Tesla 3 depositor, I wonder if Tesla will do anything to try to retain me over the next 2 years. They would be smart to.

    I didn’t try to buy an Accord in 1984, but had a similar experience trying to buy a 2001 Acura MDX. Like the Accord 17 years earlier, Honda under-priced the original MDX. Base price was about $36K; $40K got you the loaded version with both option packages.

    My wife and I test drove one and liked it. We tried to buy one, but the sales rep told us it was a 3-4 month waiting list. So, we put down a deposit.

    We never heard back from the dealer. I would call in every couple of months, to see that we were further down the list. Apparently, the dealer kept putting customers ahead of us – the ones who were willing to accept $5K in tacked on (and tacky) accessories.

    We got our MDX 11 months after we put down our deposit, and it was a victory to pay ‘only’ MSRP. We loved that vehicle, and would still have it today if our au pair hadn’t crashed it into a tree.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      In 1987 I tried to buy a Civic hatchback. It would have been a 4-speed with a single outside mirror and A/C as the only option. Honda was advertising them with a base price less than $6K. Naturally, the dealer only stocked higher trim models that were accessorized up to about 50% more. The salesman told me that the car I wanted was incapable of highway travel and completely undesirable. I bought a different brand instead. SOAB. I could have owned great cars my whole driving life, but thanks to that one POS salesman I wasted decades driving German junk.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        God I hate dealing with salespeople and dealers.

        Coming up on buying our next ride sometime soon. Dreading it already.

        My strategy is to do my research, walk in offer a fair price and they have 20 minutes to make up their mind before I walk.

  • avatar
    Shinoda is my middle name

    Somewhere in this piece there is a cogent, coherent point.

    But I’ve yet to find it.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    Too bad those days were rife with sleaze:

    http://www.nytimes.com/1993/05/02/business/honda-s-ugly-little-secret.html

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    “Next to meeting…Mark Stevenson….it was the best moment of my automotive career.”

    Awww, I see Tom Benson isn’t the only one who knows how to be ingratiating when needed :)

    Great story, Steve, thanks for sharing it. I imagine Musk would love to believe there was enough similarity between his 3 and the 84 Accord that over the next 30 years Tesla will have one of the top selling & top rated models in the US market.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    In the mid-90s, back when I was just starting my post-college life, I had two used mid-80s Accords. One was an ’86 LXi, while the second was an ’87 DX. Both well over 100K miles, but hey – it’s a Honda(tm).

    The interiors on these ~10 year old cars just didn’t hold up. The seats were turning shoddy and plastic bits were falling off. Once, while my wife was driving the DX, I put my knee – not very hard as I was just making room for a friend sitting in the back – into the dashboard above the glove box and a whole thumb-sized chunk fell off.

    The LXi suffered from a snapped clutch cable – which I managed to bring to the mechanics by not braking and staying in first gear (which was the only gear I had available). And then stalling out when I got there by yanking on the parking brake. Also had a driver’s side window that didn’t roll down and there was considerable rust by the gas tank door. The car also had an alarming habit of wanting to stall out if you drove through any kind of puddle.

    The DX was the real snail of the two – and after a few months had a door chime that wouldn’t stop, even with the door securely shut. I managed to remove this (located on the ceiling bit before the rear view mirror) after several trials and errors.

    My ol’ 1986 Monte Carlo SS, on the other hand, seemed to be in much better condition – interior and overall reliability. Of course most 80s cars suffered from plasticky interiors with exposed screws or loose-fitting clips. The SS was no exception but somehow it seemed to hold together pretty well, but it was part of the last wave of “old school” Detroit iron. BOF construction too.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      the thing that the Japanese car makers did was build *consistently.* You could count on any given Accord to be as dependable as any other one. They’d run pretty well for 150,000 miles, then all fall apart at the end of their design life.

      in contrast, the biggest fall down for American cars was the inconsistency. ‘s why you always have dueling anecdotes where someone’s Caprice was the most reliable car EVAR while the next guy’s was a horrific piece of junk.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        I knew people that put closer to 300K on their 1st generation Accords, only to have the struts come through the hoods after too many years of NY salt.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          It should be noted that Honda once got into trouble for incorrectly caliberated odometers.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            Honda odometers were found to be as much as 2.5% out, which was well within industry standards in the ’80s.

            http://articles.latimes.com/2007/mar/21/business/fi-odometer21

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        JimZ, I read somewhere that at first Honda tried to make workers collectively responsible for the quality of assembly like they did in Japan and that didn’t work in Ohio. What worked was to identify which worker installed a part and make that worker individually responsible. Once workers knew that problems could be tracked back to them individually, the assembly workers became much more careful to avoid getting fired.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      The interiors and paint on Japanese cars of that era were not durable. They didn’t hold up at all well in the North American sun, particularly in the southern states.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Camrys of that time weren’t half bad, though it helps they copied GMs abnormally atrocious yet durable interiors of that time.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        Paint was falling off new GM cars in sheets at the time. Ford and Mopar paint was an orange peel riddled, drip and run laden mess in the showroom. Fading may have aged Japanese cars fast, but at least they looked nice in the showroom, which the UAW couldn’t pull off. As for interiors, Mopar and Ford stuff held up okay. GM interiors faded and developed weird surface conditions in the sun. I saw plenty of Accords whose interiors held up to the southern sun, as did many Mazda interiors. Datsun was pretty bad. Toyota was in the middle.

    • 0 avatar
      e30gator

      I had a similar experience with my ’88 Toyota Celica ST. I was in college at the time and needed a cheap used car. A coworker of my father had the Celica for sale. I figured a Toyota product with a smidgeon over 100k miles and a 5 speed would be a smart choice for a dependable ride. Nope.

      In my approximately 8 months of ownership I had the following issues:

      -Would crank for an eternity before starting (or not at all on cold days)
      -leaked ice cold water on my head from the sunroof
      -heater stopped working…in January.
      -it would slip out of 5th gear. I’d have to hold the shift knob in position when driving on the interstate.
      -accelerator would get stuck, revving the engine into the upper limits of its RPM range. After constantly trying to maintain speed by tapping the breaks, the rotors would literally be glowing orange when I stopped.
      -pop-up headlights needed manual assistance to go up/down
      -you could fry an egg on the hood after 10 minutes of running
      -it would break down in all the worst places, like on an overpass on the interstate during a rainstorm or mid intersection of a busy road. This happened almost weekly as it blew through ignition coils as if it were chain smoking them.

      My ’86 Mercury Cougar by contrast, which I bought off a friend for $350 with 146k on the odo, soldiered on till by brother (whom I gave it to after 4 years)cracked the block by running it with no coolant at 220k miles.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Most of these read like any typical used car story from the 80s. Why didn’t you just fix the sticking throttle. In the mean time, why not pop it in neutral and kill the ignition?

        You’re mad that the hood would get mad on a running car, well golly gee I never would have figured!

        Slipping in a high gear sounds like a worn clutch, not necessarily the clutch’s fault, I don’t recall Toyota manuals having premature clutch wear problems (unlike 1990s Kia/Hyundai 5spds), but that is before my time.

        Are you the guy that kicked off the Prius unintended acceleration scandal?

      • 0 avatar
        SSJeep

        Never mind the chronic and early onset rust with those 80s and early 90s Japanese makes. Very few made it past 100k miles without any major rust issues, and driving one in a wintry climate was a surefire way to end up with perforated panels and welds in short order.

        The early 280z and 300z’s has a couple areas on the frame that were spot welded and prone to rust. And if they were weakened enough, the whole subframe would fail and render the car useless with ridiculous repair costs.

        I had similar stories with a 2nd gen Maxima. By 30k miles, all four engine mounts had failed for a number of reasons. Even with defrost and AC on high, the windows would fog so quickly that it was like driving in a blizzard. Ignition coil packs failed and were very expensive. Eventually the trunk floor rusted through and moisture caused the trunk to mold. But I guess it was “reliable”…

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      If you think the interiors were weak try tapping an object at 5mph!

      Back then cars would occasionally be tested for how well they held up to 5mph bumps, Hondas were generally tbe worst.

      The best? A mid 80s Ford Escort, it was still the best even 20 years later (not to say it was a good car overall).

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        the 5 mph bumper standards were meant so that a low speed impact wouldn’t damage the vehicle’s safety equipment, such as headlamps and indicators. Thus why so many cars had to have those big battering rams tacked on in 1973 and 1974.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      “And then stalling out when I got there by yanking on the parking brake.”

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      “a snapped clutch cable – which I managed to bring to the mechanics by not braking and staying in first gear (which was the only gear I had available)”

      You can shift gears without a clutch, particularly on manuals as smooth as Hondas. Just a matter of matching rpms to speed, and a soft finesse.

      • 0 avatar
        dividebytube

        yeah finesse wasn’t there for me since it was my only second manual car. I was more afraid of stalling out. Luckily it was only a few blocks to the repair shop.

    • 0 avatar
      davew833

      dividebytube, I beg to differ with you. The velour interiors on 86-89 Accord LXi’s are practically indestructible (although the plastic bits are pretty brittle by now.) I have a reasonably-well-cared for ’87 Lxi hatchback and the interior (maroon) looks like a 2-3 year old car. I’ve had several like this in the past few years. The DX interiors, on the other hand, were crap. I’ve never seen a DX interior that held up for any length of time. I’m not aware of what the difference in retail price was between the DX and the LXi, but the interior materials were definitely substandard in the former. As far as rust goes (I’m in Utah) the Accords from that generation seem to hold up quite well (I also have two 89 Accords, and none of the three have any rust to speak of) but the Preludes of the same years all have the same extensive rot around the rear fender wells.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      Oddly enough our experience with nearly the same two cars was the opposite. Tough cars that held up well.

      I had an ’87 LXi hatch with a 5MT. My wife had an ’86 LX sedan auto.

      The sedan went 125K miles before we sold it with no problems whatsoever. I did one timing belt on that car. We should have kept that car but we had the itch for a new car (which many years later we are still driving as it nears 300K miles).

      The ’87 LXi hatch ran and ran and ran. I last saw it as it got near 400K miles.

      Both cars looked good. Both cars ran like a clock. Cold air. Good MPG and the interiors were perfect.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    Steve, please forgive the grammar Nazi moment, but…

    “…No other compact sedan of its time could compete with its combination of value, reliability, driveability and cache…”

    It’s cachet, not cache (unless you are talking about a spacious glove box intended for storing, say, acorns in which case, please ignore this post). I don’t know why this drives me nuts, but it does.

  • avatar

    Different times, different cars.

    Honda’s being in high demand, MSRP’s inflated, allocations influenced by dealers, it was all part of the game back then. Plus everything else had an ICE same as a Honda.

    How many fully electric cars on the market in 2016?

    “Let me put down a deposit on a Model 3, and if by chance something else arrives sooner I’ll get my money back”

    In the meantime Tesla raised a ton of money up front for a car that is somewhere down the road. Folks lined up at a “factory owned” Tesla store to put down a deposit that goes directly to the factory.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      Yep, somewhere between 1980 and 2016 vaporware was invented.

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        “I have a secret plan to end the war”

        Richard Nixon, 1968.

        you are, at least, twelve years too late. In all likelihood, you are about 3-5 million years too late.

        • 0 avatar
          Kenmore

          I’m still disgusted with LBJ’s “I shall not seek, and I will not accept…” speech… bailing in the middle of the disaster that was all his baby.

          Remember it well, just got in the house from dirt-lot baseball when it came on.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    The Wall Street Journal has more stories about Teslas crashing themselves today, the WSJ’s second front page Tesla shaming this week. The beta-testing beta-people of the model 3 waiting list could be scared off whether the cars come with Autopilot or not.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      Modern aviation autopilots can do most jobs of flying an airplane. They can be programmed to fly complex IFR routes with precision. Some can even auto-land the aircraft.

      Operating on autopilot does not, however, absolve the pilot of lapses in judgment or failure to adequately monitor its operation. So it should be with automotive autopilots.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        compare the amount of training an airline pilot has to go through to what passes for “driver training” in this country. Also, pilots have to be “type certified” for each aircraft (or family of aircraft, in some cases.) There’s not much equivalent to that in this country until you get into commercial driver’s licenses.

        plus, part of that training is learning exactly what the aircraft’s autopilot can and can’t do. It’ s not like Boeing put it in there half-baked and called it “beta software.”

        • 0 avatar
          bunkie

          ‘pilots have to be “type certified” for each aircraft…’

          Only for more complex aircraft such as two-pilot airplanes.

          I can, legally, fly any “Aircraft, single-engine, land” that has less than 200HP and is not a taildragger or is a “complex” aircraft (retractible gear, constant-speed prop) on my basic VFR PPL. For me, that’s a long list of airplanes (150s, 172s, Warriors, Cherokees, Tri-Pacers, various experimentals, etc.)

          Your point, however, is well taken and, essentially, correct.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        Pilots also have to pass physicals. What does this really have to do with people who buy autonomous cars so they can do something they consider more productive than driving during their commute? At some point, it is like selling amyl nitrate as “air freshener.” Nobody uses it as air freshener, just as nobody turns on Autopilot so they can focus on watching the road.

        • 0 avatar
          bunkie

          The purpose of an autopilot in an airplane is to reduce pilot workload, not eliminate it. My point is that people think autopilots are magical devices that absolve pilots of responsibility.

          There’s the apocryphal story about the motor home owner who set the cruise so that he could go back to fix a sandwich. I’m not so sure that it’s all that far out of the realm of possibility.

          It is my opinion that these driving aids are a very bad idea. I believe that we should not allow autonomy out into the wild for quite some time to come as it is not good enough to deal with 99% of foreseeable situations.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            I wasn’t clear. When I said, “nobody turns on Autopilot so they can focus on the road,” I was referring to Tesla’s autonomous feature, which I believe they call Autopilot, and not to autopilots on airplanes. I used to crew a yacht which had three auto-helm systems, so I’m familiar with responsible and irresponsible uses of such systems in an environment with far fewer obstacles than most driving situations. We were pros, although certainly not in the same sense as airline pilots, and we knew we were ultimately responsible for everything. Tesla drivers are not exhibiting that mindset, and I’ve spoken to enough people who look forward to the day they can press a button and look at something inside their cars while the cars worry about what is going on outside. Villains always talk about the unintended consequences of their policies and actions. When the result is this foreseeable, the credibility of it being an unintended consequence is thin.

          • 0 avatar
            SSJeep

            Agreed – basic autopilots on aircraft only work to maintain direction, altitude, and speed. Basic autopilots do not navigate for the PIC. More advanced avionics are capable of autonav and autoland, but then we are talking millions of dollars along with airports equipped with the hardware to support them.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      I am not buying the Model 3 for its autonomous features. I doubt they’ll even be offered on the base car.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        I said the impact on faith in Tesla could breed fear whether the cars have the feature or not. The more crashes caused by Tesla, the less plausible their denials sound, the less confidence people will have in the integrity of their product. It’s just like how sane liberals are struggling with Hillary Clinton being the face of their party. If the Democrats will throw out the rule of law to save Hillary, what principles could they really hold?

        • 0 avatar
          Kenmore

          OK, how a group STFU about Trump and Hillary?

          At least for this one article?

          And Todd, what don’t you get about cults? Especially a cult made up of high-achieving, life-long attaboy types who *know* they can’t be flim-flammed.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          Rational consumers recognize that people die in car crashes, and buy vehicles taking into account their safety parameters. By all reasonable measures, what we know of Teslas is that they are very safe vehicles. No driver will survive when their car drives into the side of a tractor trailer at 65MPH.

          Comey is not a Democrat. He’s been widely respected by both sides of the aisle, especially Republicans. His previous role was the #2 man in the DOJ for W.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

            “No driver will survive when their car drives into the side of a tractor trailer at 65MPH.”

            I love that part: “when their car drives into…”. Except you forgot one word, it should read like this:

            “No driver will survive when their car drives ITSELF into the side of a tractor trailer at 65MPH.”

            No driver PAYING ATTENTION AND ACTUALLY DRIVING would drive into the side of a trailer at 65 mph. For all the whitewashing youre doing, you just can’t hide the fact that the man’s car killed him.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Oh, Lord, save me from the Hillary haters…

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            It sucks when you’re reduced to defending the indefensible. All that’s left is to attack people throwing the truth in your face.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      I’ve always wondered if the WSJ was protecting established cash-cows or trying to undermine Tesla for some group of investors who could buy it cheap b/c it’s reputation was ruined and then profit handsomely by breaking it up. Also protecting existing cash cows… ;)

      We know that certain parts of the mainstream media has agendas. Why not the WSJ?

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Thanks for that story, Steve – I remember that whole buying-a-Honda-in-1985 s**t show all too well. The first car I bought out of college was an ’85 Civic, and it was the same runaround. But at the same time, Hondas really were so much better than the competition – particularly American compacts – that it seemed worth it. Today, I’d never pay over sticker and wait three months for a freakin’ car. Back then, though, the Civic was so good that it was worth the wait.

    Big difference between mid-’80s Hondas and the Tesla Model 3, though…Honda was actually building those cars.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      “Big difference between mid-’80s Hondas and the Tesla Model 3, though…Honda was actually building those cars.”

      IMHO, this is what makes the Tesla deposit caper so crazy. Model 3 is YEARS away from being released and is not being made today. It’s the opposite of “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today”, except the restaurant has no hamburgers, buns or ketchup – and won’t get them for years.

      This is tribalism/blind faith at best, and cult like behavior at worst.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        “This is tribalism/blind faith at best, and cult like behavior at worst.”

        I’m a Model 3 reservation holder. I don’t feel like I’m being tribal or a member of a cult.

        The way I see it, I want a 1st tier electric car, and I’m willing to gamble $1k toward that end.

        I wasn’t always fortunate that I could afford to gamble $1k on this, or finance a $42k (ATP) car if the gamble pays off. But, here I am, and I’m willing to.put.my money where my mouth is.

        P.S. Tesla is the only high-end brand I’ve ever found interesting. I’m all about used car practicality and maintenence in the ICE world.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    I worked for a Mazda store when the RX-7 first came out. We had a waiting list for about the first year. It was pretty much the same as Steve reports, though we didn’t quite have the oddball personalities he describes. We took a $500 refundable deposit, and put you on a list with your preferences. When we got our allotment for the month, we started calling people on the list and let them pick what was available. If they didn’t like any of them, they stayed on the list for another month, and we’d work with the zone sales manager. That was in 1978 and 1979, by 1980 the list had cleared up and we had inventory.

    And by the way, Mr. Smarty Pants, we sold plenty of GLCs and 626s to people who liked them better than the Civic and the Accord. I think the front drive GLC of the early 80’s was a good bit nicer than the equivalent Civic, and the 626 was a sportier car than the equivalent Accord.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      I was at the end of college then; I remember racing down to the Mazda store with a few buddies when the first RX-7s hit. God they were gorgeous…

      • 0 avatar
        SSJeep

        I miss the 80s RX7s. Id love to restore one someday, but would likely need to do an engine swap. Ive seen a few with Chevy V8s, which are more my cup of tea…

  • avatar
    Sjalabais

    Wonderful comment! Didn’t people try to haggle with you? It is very hard to imagine a time when cars in general were of such low quality, that a few could be hard to come by. And I grew up in the GDR, with 18 years waiting lists for the 24hp Trabant…

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      When someone asked about an RX-7, we told them that since they were in short supply that they were priced at MSRP plus a $200 prep charge. We also told them that they would likely pay more anywhere else. If someone wanted to haggle, the only thing we could do was to point out that there was a waiting list for now, but that wouldn’t last forever, and once it ended that we could make them a deal.

      There were private parties who would buy RX-7s and try to resell them for a premium, I don’t know that they were successful. An RX-7 was an affordable sports car and was a good deal at MSRP. If you just couldn’t stand to pay that, by the time the ’81s were in the showroom we could make you a deal. Even then, they weren’t discounted all that much.

    • 0 avatar
      55_wrench

      @ Sjalabais,
      Honda knew they had a good thing going, and they were not needing to haggle with anybody.

      In 1973, my mother needed a good Automatic transmission-equipped car to replace the ’62 Olds that was leaking from the front tranny seal and needed front end work.

      We test drove the Datsun B210, which couldn’t get out if its own way, the first Subaru boxer, which was buzzy and just a bit less gutless.

      The Honda Civic was a revelation. It loved to rev, had decent seats and was great on gas..really a fantastic little car, and even with the 2-speed Hondamatic transmission, was the perfect car for her.

      We were right on the cusp of increased emissions requirements, and the drivability of most of the Detroit iron was about to go down the toilet for the next 15 years until they got their heads around fuel injection, and her little Honda danced right by all that nonsense.

      They charged her about $2750 out the door, only gave her 50 bucks for the Oldsmobile. They knew what they had, and it really was a better product.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Haggling on Hondas in the mid-’80s? Here’s how my “negotiation” went when I bought my ’85 Civic:

      Me:
      That price is too high. You’re screwing me on my trade.

      Salesman:
      See those two guys over there standing by the potted plant in the corner? If you don’t want the car, they’ll buy it.

      Yes, it was that silly (and, yes, there were really two guys in the corner waiting to buy the car if I bailed).

  • avatar
    philadlj

    1984 was a very good year!

    (I was born in 1984)

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Now I feel old, I was freshman in High School then!

      A few years later (in ’87) I’d get my second car… an ’85 Civic S1500 3 door hatch. Even slightly used my Civic was superior to most new cars available at the time. For example it was light years ahead of my girlfriends brand new Chevy Caviler. My parents though the Honda was an expensive foreign car, but I was in love with everything about it: the double wishbone suspension, the angled shaped, the crisp shifter and driver focused interior. Similar to the Sony walkman Japanese stuff was considered high-end excess back then, however that was pretty much the trademark of the ’80s. While the Honda cost more then it ran forever with minimal maintenance, something the US makers couldn’t compete with.

      I remember the Ford Escort and Toyota Celica being the other good choices when it came to small, good MPG, fun-to-drive, usable hatches. The VW Rabbit and the Dodge Omni were also in this group but weren’t as popular. Ford also offered the Mustang in 4 cylinder hatchback form at the time but it was a larger car thus kind of in a different class. Mazda cars weren’t on my radar back then, instead its was the mini-truck craze and everyone I knew had lowered B2200 pickups with huge stereos with crazy graphics and flashy deep dish rims.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Did the 84 Accord eat ball joints or require Honda gas nozzle adaptors for fuel?

    Both companies do seem to have some weird ability to silence anyone having car troubles.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      I think legions of happy owners and repeat buyers, as well as high marks from consumer advocacy publications trump your weird conspiracy theory.

      My family’s own history with Honda: rusty $750 ’82 Civic Wagon in ’92, less rusty ’85 Civic sedan in ’94, decent 60k mile ’90 Civic Wagon in ’96, new ’07 Fit in 2007, and finally me buying a ’12 Civic in 2013 for myself. The cars were certainly not 100% reliable, especially not the two first jalopies that we had when we first moved to the US. The ’90 Wagon served faithfully for 100k miles and 11 years with only minor work along the way (an alternator in the early 2000s, control arms and balljoints and CV axles near the end with 165k miles on it in 2006).

      The early cars and the ’90 had a very special feel to them. Sporty and fun to drive even though they were frankly quite slow and underpowered. Fantastic ergonomics and visibility. Very easy and logical to work on with lots of space under the hood. Fuel efficient, and yes very reliable on the whole.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Happy owners eh?

        http://m.carcomplaints.com/worst_vehicles/

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        The post-MMC 4th-Gens were damn fine! My Mom had a 1990 EX Sedan (first year of the trim) which was essentially a Civic Si/CRX Si chassis and engine, with a four-door body and a slushbox! The thing was a roller-skate, and loved to rev..just..because!

        And as good as that Civic was, the best one was the 4th-Gen Accord (1990-1993)! Built like a brick outhouse, with handling that was every bit as good as a BMW, a four-cylinder motor that pulled like an express train, and an interior that was leaps and bounds over anything else at the price point, with nice thick carpet and controls with the nicest “snick-snick” ever! It’s still my benchmark, though my 2013 came close.

        Total of eight Accords, two Civics, an Acura Integra and an Oddysey later, I guess that makes us a Honda family!

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      Honda is fairly generous in paying dealers to fix cars under warranty. Free repair with shuttle service to work or a free loaner car tends to help customers overlook car troubles.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        In my Dad’s first couple Accords, my Mom did-in several power antennas by not putting two and two together and switching the radio off when going through a car wash; yet even when presented with a confession of sorts, the dealer always found a loose wire or corrosion, and Honda picked up the repair!

        Try that at the Chrysler dealer, circa 1993!

  • avatar
    threeer

    I’d gladly rock that black three-door hatch in the ad. I recall how much nicer the Hondas seemed, which is probably why a fair amount of folks in my family owned them in the late 80s/early 90s. My uncle had three Accords in succession, my cousin had two CRX, my other cousin kept her 1988 Civic four-door LX for something like 15 years! My sister had a 1989 CRX and then a 1992 Prelude. Meanwhile, my parents were firmly in the Toyota camp, having owned three (1981 Corolla, 1993 Camry, 2003 Corolla) in thirty years.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Yeah, after a crap ’78 Firebird and ’80 Mustang bought new, we went Japanese is ’82 and never looked back. Except once when we bought the Edge in ’10; after a number of expensive overheating episodes we fled back to Japan.

    • 0 avatar
      davew833

      threeer, The hatch is not black, it’s dark metallic blue. I had one just like it, but mine was an ’85. Black was not a factory Honda color on the Accord in the mid- ’80s, the closest you could get was charcoal gray until 1988 or ’89.

  • avatar
    TheDoctorIsOut

    The point clearly is dealers selling not cars but places on a list and maybe you end up with a car. And I was one of those in 1983 waiting for my Accord, in those days consisting of a single trim and either sedan or hatchback. I could not wait to get rid of my crappy Sunbird but I put my name on the list for a gray four door that had yet to be built much less put on the boat from Japan; US production had only recently so everybody west of the Mississippi had were getting their cars from Japan while the rest of the country got theirs from Ohio. I got in line at Gardena Honda where they required I deposit nor did they apply the sleaze markup of $1000 and more that was common then. I got a call after 10 weeks to say my car was arriving next week and that I had 24 hours to get my ass to the dealership when the next call came to actually purchase that car. My brother-in-law with the Mercedes 450 SEL was impressed with the quality of the car for the money. Unlike some of the other commenters here mine looked great to the day I sold it to buy my 2004 Integra it ran perfectly for 250,000 miles except for a new automatic tranny at 175,000. Great car, wish I’d kept it.

  • avatar
    mike1dog

    I guess I’m the only person to ever have a problem with an Accord. I had a three door Accord that had a dead short nobody could find. I had to park on a hill and coast start it every day. It ate alternators and finally had a blown head gasket. The only good thing was when I sold it I got what I paid for it because Hondas were hot at the time.

  • avatar
    thelastdriver

    Ahh, the 2nd Generation Accord. My Gran had an ’83 that was reluctantly passed down to me by my father. He didn’t think it was safe — and it wasn’t by the time I got my license (2006-ish). Drove that thing until the passenger side control arm mount rusted away from the unibody!

    I recall my father complaining that he “Should’ve dealt with another dipshit Honda dealer than buy these POS Datsuns”. After getting my Gran the Honda he went with a pair of Datsun/Nissan Stanzas for himself and Mom. Terrible cars.

    The plastic bits and other replaced/not rusty body parts would probably be worth something to someone restoring one. I regret not saving them. Even without a passenger-side frame on the front end it managed to start and drag itself out of the yard to its final destination — Chinese appliances!

    Here’s one of my first wrenching projects when I was 13: http://siliconinsect.net/DSCN8706.JPG

    • 0 avatar
      thelastdriver

      I never mentioned the noise these cars made! When I was little (when it had a perfect exhaust and CVCC vacuum hoses) the thing sounded electric. So smooth and futuristic compared to anything else on the road. Even the 4-speed Hondamatic worked flawlessly until the radiator fell apart causing coolant to mix with tranny fluid.

      My other grandparents (Mom’s side) drove Detroit iron and always made fun of the cars that had to take them to the dealership.

      “Why are you rolling up the windows? This Jap crap has A/C?”

  • avatar
    jowibo

    VW built cars in Pennsylvania from 1978-87, so they would be the first import cars built in the US (after Rolls Royce from 1921-31).

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    “…the crappy GM J-cars: Firenza, Skyhawk, Monza and Cimarron”.

    You mean the Cavalier, J-2000, Firenza, Skyhawk, and Cimarron, right?

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “He in turn canceled her $75,000 per month allowance.”

    LMAO, sometimes you gotta realize how good you have it, and shut up.

  • avatar
    makuribu

    Pointless Honda ripoff nostalgia time.
    1988 – 4th Gen Honda Civic Hatchback. The bottom of the line model (CX) came with a 4 speed manual and no rear wiper. The dealer took my deposit and then stalled me for 6 months until I agreed to buy the upgrade, DX model. He was a bait and switch crook, but he did me a favour. Finally got the f***ing thing the day my mom came to visit. I picked her up at the airport and we drove directly to the Honda dealer in my ’82 Mazda GLC, which had a patch welded under the driver’s seat because one corner of it dropped through the floor one day. All cars were water soluble back then. Sadly, Mazdas still are.
    Drove home with my mom in the brand spanking new metallic blue Civic DX. Best 5 speed transmission I have ever used. My mom made me stop at Canadian Tire so she could buy me blue floor mats as a car warming gift. I then went to pick up my wife. On our way home, with 23km total on the clock, I met a man in a hurry in a BMW 3 series. My light was green. His wasn’t. Fortunately, I hit him, because he might have killed my wife at the speed he was going. He got a hell of a headache. I probably would have died in the GLC, as the driver’s seat likely would have come off the rusty floor and helped me through the windshield. We each sported big diagonal bruises from the shoulder harness but nothing worse.
    Called the dealer the next day and said, “What do you get when you cross a brand new Honda Civic with a BMW?” There was a pause, and he said, “Nooo!” I said, “Yes!” He said, “Sheeeit!” I agreed. He settled with the insurance company, I paid an extra grand, and my wife said, “Any colour except blue.” We kept the blue floor mats in the champagne gold off beige whatever colour that Honda had back then.

    The only Civics without rear wipers that I ever saw back then were bright yellow Saint Hubert Chicken delivery cars. If you buy several hundred, you can get the base model.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      We were surrounded in gen 4 Civics within our Russian emigre community: Our family had a brown ’90 Wagon (automatic, rear speakers, power steering), amongst our friends there was a cream white/yellow Base model hatchback with the 4spd manual, vinyl seats, and blanked out passenger rearview mirror. Our other friends had the same white/yellow color on a FWD wagon, an ’89 as I recall. Same family also had a burgundy over burgundy LX sedan with power accessories. I remember our friend coming over to use our garage and him and my dad replaced a CV axle on the LX Sedan. I guess the old country’s habits die hard! Fantastic cars, especially to people coming from Ladas, Moskvitches, or in my dad’s case, a Zaporozhets, or others simply a bus pass!

  • avatar
    runs_on_h8raide

    Present day Subaru, at least in the northeast, is like 1984 Honda. All cars are pretty much ordered unless you want the ugly color/manual base model on the lot.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Come to the Northwest. Subarus sell like greased lightning here but there is still always plenty of inventory. My local megastore typically has several manual Foresters and a manual Impreza or two on the lot. The only thing they really can’t manage to keep in stock is the WRX.

  • avatar
    Johnster

    Back in 1985, fairly fresh out of college, I bought got on a waiting list for a new CRX. Before getting on the waiting list I phoned 5 or 6 dealers around the state and I went with the only one willing to sell the car for list price. All of the other dealers wanted “Additional Dealer Markup” (ADM). I think I got on the list in August or September, and when the car came in November it was 1986 model. The only option I ordered was the dealer installed air-conditioning and an AM/FM/cassette player.

    Then, after I bought the car, I ordered a whole bunch of genuine Honda accessories from some company that advertised in the back of “Road & Track” or “Car and Driver.” Things like a rear cargo cover, carpeted floor mats, and splash guards.

    Great car. Fun to drive. I went through 2 carburetor rebuilds and 2 clutches. (Carbs and clutchs only seemed to last about 100,000 miles.) After a little more than 200,000 miles I traded it on a new Civic. It was starting to use a little oil, maybe a quart every 1,000 or 1,500 miles or so.

  • avatar
    montecarl

    My cousin had a new 84 Accord when he was in the Air force….Didn’t know it was a waiting list for the car when he bought it….

  • avatar
    dal20402

    One of my elementary school teachers, who happened to drive my carpool, replaced her ’83 Accord with one of the first ’86 models to arrive in the country, a DX hatch. She really wanted the LX-i sedan, but was unwilling to wait the year or more it would take to get off the list for that one.

    In 1986, the third-gen Accord seemed like a blast from the future. It was at another level of refinement from anything else remotely close to its price range, built almost like a lightweight mini Mercedes with material quality that was a revelation. The ride had this perfect blend, which I could feel even as a ten-year-old, of control and smoothness. I think the ’86 Accord was the absolute peak of Honda dominance, especially with fuel injection, and still remember my own ’88 (owned years later) fondly.

    Eventually, my teacher replaced the ’86 with an early ’90 EX sedan, one of the first fourth generation cars. She drove that car until I lost touch with her.

  • avatar

    I wanted to read this article, but the first sentence had “despite having little more than rough renderings of the car to show prospects”. They had physical models at a launch party, the photos of which this website happily displayed. I *really* want TTAC to produce articles that are balanced and just genuinely truthful about cars. However, when an article starts out with that much of a clear bias I really have difficulty reading the rest of it.

  • avatar
    Steve Lynch

    Then you missed the next sentence where I said it was a remarkable achievement by Tesla.

    You Tesla fanbois are hysterical.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      The B&B’s superpower for being offended is without compare.

    • 0 avatar

      If this was meant to be a response to me, well, I didn’t miss the next phrase. I saw it. The point is that you started with something that a) clearly indicates a bias within your writing and b) isn’t actually true. The first point disadvantages you, the second disadvantages everyone. Now, had you said that Tesla managed that ‘with only some basic concept vehicles’ then it *would* have been true. When you start an article with a clear attempt to belittle the efforts of the company through inaccurate information, then I just find it hard to keep taking your writing seriously. The points you make might not have been any less salient without accurate info, and I’d trust your perspective more.

      By the way, while I enjoy seeing Tesla work within the marketplace, I’m not a fanboy. I work for a tech company, and I am watching what they *say* they are doing and what they are *actually* doing with interest and a pretty critical eye (after all, that theme is pretty common across a lot of tech companies).

      Forgive me for wanting articles that are just as critical as they need to be but use the facts to make those points rather than rough approximations of them.

  • avatar
    tekdemon

    I’m going straight up tell you that you’re wrong about the people who put down the deposits for the Model 3. They’re not the same crowd that was uncomfortable buying an Accord without seeing it, many of the people on line were folks who had ALREADY waited several years to buy their Model S’s and Model X’s, we’re talking about a group of people who are comfortable gambling their deposits while waiting to see what the final car looks like. If, after seeing the real deal they don’t like it, they’ll cancel it but it’s unlikely for most of the people who’ve placed deposits to cancel before seeing the final Model 3. Most of the people putting down these deposits knowing that it’ll be years before they get the car tend to be relatively well off folks. Pretty much everyone was a well off professional on the line I waited on except for ONE younger fellow who sounded like he was saving up every penny to afford it.

    If the Model 3 comes out in it’s final form and it’s terrible then yes, there will be cancellations galore. But those deposits will mostly stay for now, even though there won’t be a car to see for years because the people putting down those deposits are the kind of people who are comfortable with not seeing the final product for years and who have more than enough money to not worry about their deposit.

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