Honda Addresses Quality Control: Keep It Simple, Stupid

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
honda addresses quality control keep it simple stupid

There was a time where you could ask just about anybody on the street which car brand they felt was the most reliable and they’d pause for a moment before answering — unsure as to whether they should suggest Toyota or Honda.

While the realities of what constitute a “reliable car” are a little more complicated than simple branding, both automakers deservedly made a name for themselves by undercutting and outlasting rival products coming from Detroit.

Times have changed. These days, you’ll usually see Toyota (and Lexus) sitting at the top of most reliability/quality surveys while Honda has settled uncomfortably to the middle of the pack. Perhaps more telling is the deluge of recalls that swept away some of the automaker’s credibility over the last five years. Honda is wisely blaming itself, allowing it to make the changes it believes are necessary to remedy the problem and regain some of its consistency.

Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo has openly suggested the need for corporate reforms since 2018. According to Reuters, he has yet to take his eyes off the prize, actively working on changes to help centralize decision-making by bringing Honda’s standalone R&D division in-house while cutting a few senior management positions.

From Reuters:

According to five Honda insiders, quality blunders have helped squeeze the operating margin at its global automotive business to [2-3 percent] — giving it less room for maneuver just as bigger rivals are building partnerships and overhauling their operations to become stronger.

That’s in stark contrast to Honda’s motorcycle business which has already brought its R&D division in-house and has a margin of 13.9 [percent].

In J.D. Power’s study of vehicle dependability in the United States, one of Honda’s two main auto markets along with China, the Japanese brand fell to 18th place this year from 5th in 2015 and 4th in 2002, its highest ranking.

“These moves we’re making today will decide our eventual fate: whether we’re going to be in business as an independent player 10 to 15 years from now,” a Honda source told Reuters.

“Quality is acting up,” one engineer said. “Honda has created too many regional models, in addition to an array of types, options and derivatives for its global models … All that’s eating up our profit.”

Back in March, Hachigo met with suppliers for a two-day meeting in Utsunomiya, Japan, asking for help in reducing Honda’s range of cars simplifying options. In May he suggested eliminating two-thirds of “derivative” products in global models by 2025 and ending Honda’s new habit of offering colors, model types, and options specific to certain regions. It’s not all that surprising or novel of a move. Ford’s CEO discussed the benefits of decontenting vehicles to free up capital last week. While the end goals are vaguely dissimilar, both automakers are basically trying to drum up cash in an attempt to put it to good use elsewhere.

Those in attendance at the supplier meeting claim Honda leadership essentially just asked for more common parts across the board. Everything from engine components to door handles.

Ultimately, Hachigo wants to save as much cash as possible, bring decision making back to Tokyo, and restore the brand’s image by reducing the number of recalls it’s forced to announce. The previously quoted engineer stated that there’s already an internal quality target in place aimed at cutting global recalls by two-thirds in the next few years. Barring another Takata incident, that seems totally reasonable.

[Image: Grisha Bruev/Shutterstock]

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  • AtoB AtoB on Dec 26, 2019

    Have an '06 Accord owned since new. 4cyl/5A. Its been quite reliable. Fluids, tires and the occasional swaybar link. Even the tires last - I get about 6 years/70k per set of Michelin Energy Savers. Paint has some factory orange peel and other defects but overall has held up with minimal maintenance. Had an unpleasant experience a few years ago when the dealer found the suspension rubber had aged and recommended replacement. In tackling the job myself I found a few unfortunate facts: Honda requires dealer only tools where universal tools SHOULD go. Honda puts hidden C clips on the transmission side half shaft splines. Youtube help videos aren't that helpful. Honda dealers lie! Get an independent second opinion first! What should have been a weekend of easy shade tree work became a clusterfuck. Oh well, live and learn.

  • Schurkey Schurkey on Jan 06, 2020

    I've owned two Hondas: 1980 Civic CVCC 1300, bought used in '82; and an '83 CB1100F motorcycle, bought new in '83. I still have the 11F. Hasn't run in years. The brake calipers corrode so bad that the rubber seal is squeezed into the caliper piston so tight it locks the caliper so the brakes won't apply. If you do get them applied, they won't release. "Fixing" this involves caliper disassembly, cleaning the corrosion out of seal groove, and then reassembly. From new, the bike was noticeably short on high-speed power, (took MILES of WFO to get to 130, and as time went by, I had trouble getting to 110--on a bike "the magazines" had no trouble achieving 145+) and noticeably knocky-tappy at idle. After suffering through piss-poor high-speed power for...oh...a couple decades and at least one TOTAL rebuild of the carbs, I threw on a mildly-quicky-cleaned set of eBay carburetors. I then went faster than I'd ever gone before, without really intending to. Defective carbs from Honda, apparently excessively lean at heavy load. My ire for the carbs in those days of "55 mph speed limits" was masked by the hateful engine noise they never did fix under warranty. The Honda dealer basically told me "they all do that, don't come back" even when I had positive proof that they "don't" all do that. I wrote to Honda of America, and never got a reply. The '80 Civic tossed #3 connecting rod into the oil filter, breaking a decent-sized piece of the block in the process. This was in February of '85, going ~70 mph in 5th gear on the interstate. #3 connecting rod broke into four pieces; to this day it is the ONLY broken connecting rod I've laid hands on that did NOT break the connecting-rod bolts. The #3 rod bearing was burnt black and sharp enough to shave with. All the main bearings and the other three rod bearings looked so perfect I'd have re-used them if the block had been salvageable. 58,xxx miles on that engine. Honda wasn't about to help me with the repairs. About that same time, I noticed that the seat-belt retractor was so weak it wouldn't wind the belt up any more unless coaxed by basically feeding the belt into the retractor. Turns out, the US Government--MY OWN GOVERNMENT--sold me out. This seat-belt problem was so common the cars were "almost" recalled. Instead, the DOT or NHTSA or whoever decides such things told Honda that defective seat belts don't matter, as long as Honda puts a "Lifetime" warranty on all future seat belts. Did me a lot of good. I owned that piece of crap from '82 to '97. By the end, even the VALVE COVER had rust holes that would spurt oil mist. I gave it to the Treasure Yard, and moved up to a '75 Nova. Don't tell me Honda quality is going downhill. Far as I'm concerned, it's been "downhill" for decades; and their "customer service/warranty repair" has been horrible just as long. Fook 'em 'til they bleed.

  • SPPPP It seems like a really nice car that's just still trying to find its customer.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird I owned an 87 Thunderbird aka the second generation aero bird. It was a fine driving comfortable and very reliable car. Quite underrated compared to the GM G-body mid sized coupes since unlike them they had rack and pinion steering and struts on all four wheels plus fuel injection which GM was a bit late to the game on their mid and full sized cars. When I sold it I considered a Mark VII LSC which like many had its trouble prone air suspension deleted and replaced with coils and struts. Instead I went for a MN-12 Thunderbird.
  • SCE to AUX Somebody got the bill of material mixed up and never caught it.Maybe the stud was for a different version (like the 4xe) which might use a different fuel tank.
  • Inside Looking Out Scandinavian design costs only $600? I mean the furniture.
  • Akear Lets be honest, Lucid will not be around in five years. It does not matter that it is probably the world's best EV sedan. Lucid's manufacturing and marketing is a complete mess. The truth is most EV companies are going under within the decade.