By on January 16, 2017

2016 Honda Civic Sedan - Image: Honda

The first Honda Civic made its way to the United States during the Nixon administration. Honda began building Civics in the United States in 1986. Two years later, Honda of Canada Manufacturing began Civic production, as well.

In 2016, with an assembly plant in Greensburg, Indiana, and Alliston, Ontario, Honda is building more than 38,000 Civics per month in North America.

Yet seven years after Honda discontinued the Civic in its Japanese home market, Civic production is returning to Japan.

Civic sales resume in Japan this summer, and some of those Japanese-built Civics, Automotive News reports, might make their way to America.

Based on prevailing conditions, Honda’s North American assembly plants may increasingly be called upon to build HR-Vs, CR-Vs, and Pilots and not Fits, Civics, and Accords. In fact, we’ve already seen Fit production migrate back from Mexico to Japan as Honda sources a greater number of HR-Vs from the company’s Celaya, Mexico, facility.

With the Fit and HR-V fighting for Mexican capacity in 2015, U.S. Fit sales fell to a three-year low. But Automotive News says 93 percent of the Fits sold in the U.S. in 2016 were imported from Japan. Total Fit sales perked up 7 percent despite a 3-percent drop in overall subcompact volume.

With far greater HR-V availability, U.S. HR-V sales jumped 42 percent over the final two-thirds of 2016. Honda set a new HR-V sales record in November 2016 and then smashed that record with 9,034 sales in December 2016, nearly double the December 2015 total.

Honda Canada Civic manufacturing 2016 - Image: Honda

The Civic, however, is no mere Fit. While U.S. sales of passenger cars tumbled 9 percent in 2016 and the car market earned only four in ten new vehicle sales, U.S. sales of the Honda Civic reached a record high in 2016.

But this high-water mark for the Civic occurred as Honda launched an all-new, tenth-generation model and added a new hatchback bodystyle.

(Incidentally, the Civic Hatchback is already an imported model, albeit not from Japan. Honda ships the hatchback across the Atlantic from the company’s facility in Swindon, England.)

Can Honda sustain such high Civic demand as the new Civic ages, when it isn’t the newest compact car in America’s small car fleet, when the collective American consumer continues to veer away from passenger cars toward SUVs and crossovers?

And if, or when, Civic demand eventually decreases, would American Honda prefer to be sourcing Civics from Japan and building even more in-demand HR-Vs and CR-Vs in North America?

“We’d like to consider political developments and circumstances before determining the best way forward,” Kimiyoshi Teratani, Honda’s COO in Japan, told Automotive News.

Ah yes, the political climate.

In advance of possible changes to the company’s North American production portfolio, Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo said at the 2017’s North American International Auto Show, “Last year, more than 96 percent of the vehicles we sold in the U.S. were made in North America.”

As if in response to a Honda-directed presidential tweet that hasn’t yet been tweeted, Hachigo further emphasized Honda’s American presence. “In total, we now have 12 major plants in the U.S. building cars and trucks, engines, transmissions, power equipment, power sports products, and even airplanes,” Honda’s CEO continued. “Local automobile production helped us achieve new sales records in the U.S. for the second straight year.”

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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30 Comments on “Your Next Honda Civic May Come From Japan, Of All Places...”


  • avatar
    sutherland555

    Well, let’s start this party. Trump has threatened Ford, GM and Toyota (have I missed anyone?) with a border tax so I’m sure we’ll see a threatening tweet against Honda now.

    Let’s say the border tax is imposed. If Honda is selling Civics in the US that are made in the US, Canada, UK and Japan, are only US made Civics affected? That sounds like a logistical nightmare to me.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Well, Trump seems to be arguing against shutting down American plants and moving production to Mexico. He probably doesn’t give a rat’s patoot about Mexican plants being repurposed and SOME models that are also made in the US being imported from Japan to meet demand. No American plants or jobs are being lost.

      That’s the key reason for Honda’s move, to balance production to match demand. I imagine the dollar-yen exchange rate (114 Yen/dollar) and Japanese export practices (refunding VAT taxes collected on items exported) are also part of the equation.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        Of mainstream automakers, Honda manufactures in America the highest % of vehicles sold here (technically, including Canada). If Trump were to impose an import tax on autos, Honda is better positioned than all competitors.

  • avatar
    mtmmo

    Only Anti-American Democrats see Trump’s actions as threatening Ford, GM, and Toyota. Americans who love this country see it for what it is. Trump helping protect American workers and their jobs. Something that is foreign to the Globalist Anti-American Democrat Party. MAGA!

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      However Republicans as proponents of big business were also historical advocates of free trade. Therefore you cannot lay the blame solely on the Democrats.

      • 0 avatar
        Chan

        Yes, but Trump isn’t really a Republican, is he? He is just Trump.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          “Trump isn’t really a Republican, is he? He is just Trump.”

          This is true, and merely the name Trump instills fear in adversaries. As it should!

          Here’s a guy with a track record, used to making tough decisions. Trump has never been a mealy-mouthed politicians talking out of both sides of their mouth at the same time.

          I’m no Trump fan. Didn’t vote for him, but I believe America will do much better with Trump than America did over the past eight miserable years of redistribution of America’s wealth from those who worked for it to those who don’t want to work.

          Remember when Bill Clinton put an end to all the freebies and welfare and told the freeloaders to get a job? Those were the best years of the WJC presidency and America!

    • 0 avatar
      mr.cranky

      Yes, and the orange goblin getting chummy with Vladimir Putin is not “anti-American” to you, is it?

      If it’s not, you’re in the wrong country pal.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      No, it’s not “Anti-American”; it’s bullying. Ford, GM, and Toyota are global companies. All three produce a laundry list of vehicles in the US. If a tariff would be placed on their vehicles not made in the US, those vehicles would be noncompetitive from a price point. IN the end, ford and GM would loose money/market share on these economically noncompetitive vehicles. My Lexus was built in a plant that has about 65 employees and 330 robots (more or less). The employees tend the robots. Manufacturing is morphing from unskilled (apologies Mikey) to highly skilled, technical work. The days of doing a highly studied time and motion very simple task are going the way of the dodo. Being a technician who runs the robot that does 20 former jobs at once is the future of manufacturing. There will be fewer and fewer workers to protect; their jobs will be gone.

      • 0 avatar
        dantes_inferno

        Being a technician who runs the robot that does 20 former jobs at once is the future of manufacturing. There will be fewer and fewer workers to protect; their jobs will be gone.

        In other words:

        https://despair.com/products/adaptation

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      Two words . . .

      Smoot Hawley

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Its supposed to read: “Trump inserting himself and the government into value chains neither of them make any contribution to.”

      That way, a greater share of the value add is captured, not by people designing, building, transporting, retailing, consuming and servicing cars, but by people lobbying for what arbitrary classification along some dimension, the cars should be put into. The latter being much more likely to reside closer to Trump, both geographically and socioeconomically, hence more likely to have his ear. It worked like a charm for Chavez in Venezuela. Chavez was perhaps the only one it did work like a charm for down there. But hey, he’s the one on reality TV; the rest are just more of Bastiat’s unseen.

    • 0 avatar
      Charliej

      Trump is a cheeto headed moron who’s followers are, by and large, ignorant of economics and reality in general. The reality is that over the next few years Trump’s actions will damage many of his followers. The typical Trump voter was envious of the people who were doing well. Grade school education does not make for a prosperous future. Nothing Trump does will change that. So, to all of the low education voters that Trump loves, it is going to be a bad time to be you. Too bad that you did not study or pay attention in class. Life sucks when you are ignorant and stupid.

    • 0 avatar
      Chan

      Pretty sure globalism is an idea peddled by the wealthy to reduce their costs and increase returns, with the entire US Government drinking the Kool-Aid over the past 30 years.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Japanese built Civic… I am in a dream land…

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    The “J-VIN” used to have a very special connotation, and perhaps in certain circumstances it does. But having recently gotten up close to a Japanese made ’09 Forester, there is absolutely no implicit guarantee of superior quality IMO.

    That particular forester had, at 97k miles:
    3 bad wheel bearings: pitted races that can be chalked up mostly to an improperly hardened metal alloy rather than water intrusion.
    Externally leaking headgasket: we’ve discussed this many-a-times
    Badly corroded rear brake lines: unsheathed section of line near one of the junctions, what were they thinking?
    Improperly installed piece of foam weatherstripping (from the factory apaprently) near the cowl that caused massive water intrusion into the cabin through the HVAC fresh-air vent.

    • 0 avatar
      pdl2dmtl

      Yes, the famous Subaru reliability who doesn’t hold a candle next to a Toyota. Seized differentials? CVT’s from the ’90s?

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        To be fair everyone had issues with CVTs in the 90s, sometimes prompted by inappropriate fluid replacements. Are you talking about viscous coupling failure? I haven’t heard much bad about the rear diff, in fact they are pretty stupendously overbuilt despite their tiny looking size.

    • 0 avatar
      sutherland555

      The reliability reputation of Honda and Toyota passed the mirage of Japanese reliability onto all Japanese automakers. Not all Japanese automakers are created equal by any stretch of the imagination.

      • 0 avatar
        quaquaqua

        I don’t think that’s entirely the case. Nissan, Mazda, and Mitsubishis in the 80s got good reputations because, compared to domestics, they had modern, intuitive interiors AND were assembled well. I will say that, especially in the case of Mitsu, the cars did start to run into major problems after several years, far sooner than Honda and Toyota. But in the mid 1980s, buying a car that didn’t come loaded with defects and was assembled well was an accomplishment in and of itself. That is what helped those other Japanese brands develop solid reputations on their own, even if in the long term, they couldn’t hold a candle to Toyota/Honda.

    • 0 avatar
      SP

      It sounds like there is at least 1 assembly oversight there (weatherstrip), 1 well-known design flaw (headgaskets, a common problem for Subaru), an odd minor design flaw (brake line protection), and one unknown problem (wheel bearing failure).

      Three wheel bearings failing on the same car by 97k miles sounds a bit excessive. It might be worth checking that there is not an electrical grounding problem. For example, maybe an engine ground strap was left off when the HGs were replaced? A slight voltage differential across the wheel bearings can cause pitting from tiny electrical arcs within a short time.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        ” For example, maybe an engine ground strap was left off when the HGs were replaced? A slight voltage differential across the wheel bearings can cause pitting from tiny electrical arcs within a short time.”

        Hmm I’ve never heard of such a thing. Factory HGs were just replaced by my bro, after the three wheel bearings. Subaru wheel bearings are known to be short lived junk on the newer (mid-2000s) cars.

        • 0 avatar
          quaquaqua

          I hate this overused term, but I refuse to drink the Subaru kool-aid. They do some great things and build very useful cars but even ignoring the head gasket thing (which popped up at 60k miles on my friend’s ’09 Outback), he had to have his driver seat re-welded as it detached itself from the frame. Oh, and his radio display also completely died. There have been a lot of other really strange, quirky issues (like warning lights randomly illuminating) that would have driven me crazy by now, but he refuses to speak ill of the car and even convinced his parents to buy one. I don’t get it.

        • 0 avatar
          SP

          It’s one possible cause of bearing problems, but not very widely known. It may be totally unrelated to the 3 bearing failures on that specific car. If the failures recur, even with good quality parts and careful installation, it may be something worth checking.

          Some discussion (for and against): http://forums.vwvortex.com/showthread.php?1619333-Could-bad-ground-cable-cause-burning-wheel-bearings

          • 0 avatar
            Rigaudon

            Real world Subaru owner here but from the late 90’s. After two Forester’s I wasn’t impressed with the quality. I loved the design, but not the issues. Prior to the Forester I had mostly Honda’s and they were rock solid. 1st Forester was ’98 with manual transmission. Had faulty clutch that I didn’t noticed until after I took delivery. Subie replaced clutch but second one had same issue. A year later I traded it in for my first automatic – a ’99 Forester. That one had a click shifting into second which was just an annoyance, but the wheel bearing failed around 65,000 miles. I was told they used impreza parts on the heavier Forester and some of them weren’t up to the heavier car. Traded that one in for a manual Corolla and put 175,000 on that one over the next 5 years – all trouble free. No more Subaru’s here.

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    Back-burnering an LCC only makes sense. Hondota are the world standard for making bucks by making sense.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    With sliding new car demand in Japan as the country ages its way into oblivion, Honda no doubt finds their home market to be one of the few places where they have excess production capacity. The difference between profit and loss is increasingly based on keeping the plants running at near capacity, so such a move makes sense for Honda even if they don’t sell many Civics in Japan. The question is whether the Trump administration will see things the same way – he is apparently already unhappy with the new plant BMW is building in Mexico, and BMW is I believe the largest auto exporter (by value) in the US.

  • avatar
    Giltibo

    For Honda, it’s called optimizing the efficiency of its existing plants before building new ones.
    The NA plants can’t keep up with the demand.
    Celaya, Mexico
    Lincoln, AL
    Alliston, ON (Both plants)
    East Liberty, OH
    Greensburg, IN

    ALL PRODUCING AT CAPACITY with Mucho Overtime.

    Civic Hatch is built in Swindon, England.

    We need help, if we want to drive Hondas! Some models are in short supply!
    (My wife is working for one of their major suppliers (For HCM 1 and 2, ELP, MAP and HMIN) and they’ve been working 6 days a week almost every week for the last 2 years.

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