By on December 12, 2019

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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78 Comments on “Honda Addresses Quality Control: Keep it Simple, Stupid...”


  • avatar
    JimZ

    “According to five Honda insiders, quality blunders have helped squeeze the operating margin at its global automotive business to [2-3 percent]”

    kind of casts doubt on the profitability of those wonderful sedans people insist every company should keep making.

    • 0 avatar
      Robotdawn

      If there were upvotes to give JimZ, you would have them all.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “kind of casts doubt on the profitability of those wonderful sedans”

      Doubtful as Honda sells some of these models worldwide and assembles some in the US/Canada for export.

      Oh whose fault were those quality blunders again?

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      It isn’t just the sedans that are affected, the CUVs, minivans, and even the Ridgeline have had a few low rumbles that became audible.

      “Honda has settled uncomfortably to the middle of the pack” is putting it kindly.

      And that is probably one of the better motivators to thoroughly test-drive any new vehicle, once you have decided in your mind you’re going to buy it.

      A good place to visit is the Honda Owners forum to read up on some of the QC/QA issues BEFORE you buy.

  • avatar
    deanst

    So what you got out of this article is that the 2 sedans Honda produces for North America is the source of all their problems?

    Apparently I read a different article.

  • avatar
    Thomas Kreutzer

    The Honda Mobilio we owned in Japan was essentially a minivan-bodied Fit and had issues with the clutches on it’s CVT. It had a judder whenever it started from a stop although I could minimize that by giving it an extra second or two to roll forward on its own prior to stepping on the gas.

    Thing was, when I researched it, this is a common problem with those vehicles. I’m not sure if they rise to the levels people report about with Nissan’s CVTs, but it was still a surprising issue. If I had really depended on the car, I’d have to have had that fixed. Because it was just a back-up and a little ’round-towner I didn’t bother with it. If we were still there, I’d probably still be limping along with it today.

    My point is, I suppose, that things like this happen and people take note. I’m not normally a Honda car shopper but I might have been swayed to become one had my experience been totally wonderful. What I got was a “meh” experience and so, when we went small car shopping last year, we didn’t go to Honda. Time will tell if we made the right decision there…

    • 0 avatar
      Nedmundo

      Our 2016 Subaru Forester, which has a CVT, has similar but not identical behavior. It doesn’t “judder,” but sometimes lunges aggressively from a stop, even with light throttle input. But if I give it a couple of seconds to engage before applying throttle, the effect is reduced.

      When we first bought the Forester (last year as CPO), I thought I didn’t hate the CVT. I do now. Ugh.

      But they are improving. I’ve driven the new generation Forester, and it’s much better. Honda’s more recent CVTs have gotten good reviews too, even from the CVT haters at Car and Driver.

      My sense is that Honda’s reliability issues stem mainly from a couple of unfortunate transmissions, some infotainment stuff, and of course the Takata airbag fiasco. Most folks still have good experiences, and my 2010 Acura TSX has been nearly flawless for 10 years and 121,000 miles. The A/C’s freon has been recharged a couple of times, a trim piece buzzed for awhile, and I did the airbag recall. Otherwise, just normal wear items like shocks, and a new clutch at 118.000 miles. It still drives like new.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Toyota nani yori mo.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    Honda “quality”. Not a Honda fan (I’ve spoken here about my daughter’s new ’98 with the transmission failure at 10k miles that they wouldn’t cover with the warranty). I briefly emerged from retirement to work at a Honda supplier of interior parts (mostly consoles for various models assembled in Ohio/Indiana) as a Quality Assurance Associate. My job was to inspect for proper assembly and any defects in final product appearance. The tools I was issued were a black grease pencil and a cotton wiping cloth – I was told to grind the pencil along the multiple scratches/dings/pits in the plastic found on 80% to 90% of the consoles to fill ’em in and wipe off the excess with the rag to hide the defects. Any of you folks who own Honda’s and have gotten black stains on your trouser legs, now you know why. I went through at least three pencils per shift…

    • 0 avatar
      iNeon

      Cosign.

      A friend works in quality control processes at Lincoln— I’ve heard many stories about the grease pencils, her inability to retain quality employees, assembly errors/flaws, and most-alarmingly— the company’s refusal to modify process such that any of this could be addressed.

    • 0 avatar
      redgolf

      I recently leased a new Equinox, after getting it home I noticed a little nub of plastic sticking out of the middle of the dashboard, this is going to bug me every time I look at it for the next 3 years I thought, too small to take it in I thought, they are going to think I’m crazy, so got out my double edged razor blade hoping that I wouldn’t make a bigger mess of it and cautiously scraped it off making it unnoticeable, so yeah, It’s the little things like this that turns people off even though the rest of the suv is flawless and runs great!

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Grease pencil to fix plastic scratches? WOW terrible.

      I was once a big Honda fan, but then I needed a truck and they only offered a re-badged Isuzu. Since then nothing in their product line has appealed to me. No RWD and their sporty offerings (Civic R) have beat down with an ugly stick. Thru the mid/late 80s and early 90s I owned 3 different Hondas all of which were perfect.

    • 0 avatar
      Robotdawn

      Great. About the time I’m really interested in a Honda for my wife, chiefly because she hates change and would keep anything we buy for as long as it runs, and now you people are telling me they aren’t as reliable as they used to be.

      I’ve never been able to buy a Honda. Their trim levels are optioning remind me of communism or the Model T. If you want this, then you have to have this, but can’t have that. Repeat. Never has worked out. Or, by the time I got what I wanted it was expensive enough in real world dollars it didn’t work in the budget.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Over the years I have owned or negotiated the purchase for family members of over a dozen Hondas.

        All were relatively flawless with the exception of A/C units on the older, dealer installed models. But then most were during the period of ‘peak Honda’ (1981 to 2000).

        The only one left and therefore the ‘newest’ is an Element. Which is practically irreplaceable as that niche type of vehicle market is nearly extinct.

        Among our workforce who are generally frugal, on a limited budget and depend on a vehicle to get to work, the favoured vehicles were predominantly used Corollas and Civics. These are now replaced by used CRVs, RAV4s or new Elantras.

        One of my work associates has a 2 year old Pilot that has experienced multiple transmission issues.

        • 0 avatar
          islander800

          Been Honda owners since 1986 (or 1964 if you include my Honda 90 motorcycle). That Accord lasted 13 years, still mechanically sound at 200K kilometers (104K miles) but succumbed to the rust worm. Next was a 1998 Accord, as problem-free as the ’86, followed by a 2004 Element which has lived its whole life on the West Coast. At 15 years and zero rust, with regular maintenance including changing all belts and fluids as required, it still drives like new at 100K km (62K miles)with ZERO mechanical issues. I get constantly asked if I want to sell. The answer is always “No thank you”. Our next vehicle, perhaps in five years, will likely be an electric offering from Honda. I expect I’ll still get a good price when we sell our then-20-year-old Element – along with our 2010 Fit, with 45K km on it presently. The Fit’s a great city car, not-so-great for highway trips (seats are horrible cost-cutting abominations) but again, the car is bullet proof.

      • 0 avatar
        jalop1991

        “Great. About the time I’m really interested in a Honda for my wife, chiefly because she hates change and would keep anything we buy for as long as it runs, and now you people are telling me they aren’t as reliable as they used to be.”

        They haven’t been, for 21 years now.

        Their sweet spot was, and probably is, lightweight 4 cylinder cars with manual transmissions. The farther they stray from that, the worse their cars are.

        All the cars are by necessity heavier, which is a problem. And from the 1998 Accord V6 over to the 99 Odyssey, they put junk transmissions into those heavy cars–and paid the price. And every time they seem to take a step forward, they take two back.

        So they fix the transmissions. Then they introduce Variable Cylinder Management (VCM), but screw that up and end up burning up engines. Then they decide they should move to turbo 4 cylinder engines–so now there’s fuel diluting the oil, for which they have no answer.

        And all of THOSE cars have CVTs? Ooooo, can’t wait for that inevitable disaster.

        There’s a reason Pacifica minivans are selling so well. There’s a reason Honda is midpack at best in quality surveys. Just like people used to blindly buy Buicks or Oldsmobiles back in the 60s because “that’s what you do”, similarly people are blindly buying Honda cars today.

        And they’ve never bothered even to look around to find out how the world has changed around Honda and their cars.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      bullnuke, that grease pencil story is wonderfully informative and profoundly depressing, all at once.

      I see the CEO’s planned steps as a solution to a different problem than “quality.” Firing middle managers and centralizing engineering are not quality moves, they’re cost cuts. And as accidental confirmation, the quote in the story talks not about defect rates but profit margins.

      I’ve read that Honda has gradually been losing its legendary (pun intended) mojo ever since its daring visionary founder Soichiro Honda died a quarter century ago. Under his leadership, the challenge was to see how much excellence you could hit at a price point. Now the company has gradually been gripped by entropy and grayed out into just another big car company that happens to have some excellent engineering and a topflight image to maintain/exploit. Now we’re hearing its goals, even in a story about quality screwups, defined in terms of profit margins.

      The Wall Street Journal reported a year or two ago that Honda was struggling internally with the cost pressure to outsource various components as lesser automakers do. You could argue that the glass 5-speed slushbox on the 2000-era V6 vehicles was crap, but most of the rest of the car wasn’t. That’s not so clear now. I suspect that same destructive bean-counting dynamic was behind these moves as well. If you want a vehicle with the fabled Honda virtues going forward, better shop at a Mazda dealer.

      • 0 avatar
        conundrum

        Exactly what I did. Went over mine before delivery and it was physically flawless so far as I could tell with its J VIN. No real problems which isn’t surprising because it’s only been four months, and no sign of grease pencil marking on the plastic – I can’t imagine them doing that in Japan, but who knows. I’ve had two cases of the infotainment not booting up, and when that happened the last time the auto up-and-down function on the driver’s side rear window didn’t work. Only caught that by chance. Ran another errand and upon starting the engine afterwards, the fault(s) went away. I think it was Russian interference with the BCM. Those guys are everywhere.

        My brother bought an 2004 Element AWD that was a bag o’bolts after 10 years and 200,000 km. It needed every suspension bushing replaced and used oil. The power-steering failed the day he bought it dumping PS fluid everywhere, which was an omen. So they got a 2014 CX-5 (with only a $2K trade-in on the Element on which the alternator had again failed) and it’s never burped once.

        If Honda is blaming its failings on too many models for worldwide markets, it behoves us to recall that Toyota has way more models and variations worldwide and they don’t crap out. What we’re talking about is Honda accepting defective parts from suppliers, not too many model variations. Even my ’89 Honda mower crapped out when the front guide wheel assembly on the deck fell off. It hadn’t been welded properly, in fact the paint held the damn thing together so far as I could see. No, they wouldn’t cover it, It was just over a year old and out of warranty. Gee, thanks. 400 bucks down the drain. The 1960 Lawn Boy my father bought he left behind after 20 or so years when he moved away. Probably still working.

        • 0 avatar
          jalop1991

          “I’ve had two cases of the infotainment not booting up, and when that happened the last time the auto up-and-down function on the driver’s side rear window didn’t work. Only caught that by chance. Ran another errand and upon starting the engine afterwards, the fault(s) went away.”

          That is pure Volkswagen right there.

          Of course, the GTI makes up for it by, you know, actually being fun to drive.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I was with you until the last sentence because you misspelled Toyota, but all around excellent points. I think this sums up HMC since 2000: “topflight image to maintain/exploit”. Death by MBA.

        @conundrum

        I picked up a J VIN Toyota last year, the only issues I’ve had with it are related to the traction control and auto braking idiot lights occasionally coming on and off randomly/at the wrong times.

        I’m surprised your brother got so little on his Element unless it was very rough, those used to command ridiculous valuations. Hondas were popular in the 90s when I grew up and still remain somewhat so, but aside from a few models such a Prelude or later the TSX, I don’t see the hype and I wouldn’t touch one.

        • 0 avatar
          iNeon

          “I picked up a J VIN Toyota last year, the only issues I’ve had with it are related to the traction control and auto braking idiot lights occasionally coming on and off randomly/at the wrong times.”

          Rolling disablement of safety systems in non-event contexts ought not to be diminished– your car has problems in critical systems that could lead an average driver (or those around them) to injury. Those aren’t ‘idiot’ lights– they’re (malfunction) indicators.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Dude, the auto braking/warning whatever light is part of the extra safety system and can be disabled. I already disabled the lane warning light and I may just disable it too, I have not to this point because I read in the event of an actual collision it initiates some sort of emergency braking whether I am actually braking or not. That’s one of those you never know things.

            I’ve had trac lights go on and off in my Saturns and a number of other cars over the years, they usually kick on when the car is actually compensating for traction changes. I’ll be more concerned when it comes on and stays on.

          • 0 avatar
            NormSV650

            …and you knock on domestic quality?

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            …and you shill for “Buicks” made in Yantai, Shandong Province, P.R. China?

          • 0 avatar
            iNeon

            “I picked up a J VIN Toyota last year, the only issues I’ve had with it are related to the traction control and auto braking idiot lights occasionally coming on and off randomly/at the wrong times.”

            No— and, no.

            Random firing-off of safety systems indicator lamps in non-event events (it is -right there- in your own hand) should not be explained-away as ‘normal‘ operation.

            “They all do that” never once fixed a car that was broken before it was built— dude.

  • avatar
    lstanley

    We’re a Honda family with an Odyssey, an Accord, and a Civic. The only things wrong quality wise is an intermittent squeaky defroster fan in my Accord (after the warranty expired and the sound does drive me nuts, I have to admit) and the headliner in a corner of sunroof in the Odyssey was not tight when we took delivery. I fixed it with glue the next day. The Civic is fine in all aspects. And I previously drove a ’96 Acura to 220k miles with only a failed passenger side window regulator.

    So my personal experience says Honda’s not doing too bad on quality. YMMV, I get that.

    • 0 avatar
      MorrisGray

      What year models do you currently own?
      The older models before the new turbo phase were better.

    • 0 avatar
      redgolf

      My daughters 07 Odyssey’s paint is peeling off to the point she is embarrassed to drive it,the top front of the roof and down the A pillar, no Honda recall because it’s white and only blue was recalled, every time I see an older white Odyssey I usually see peeling paint, paint shop wants $1400 to paint it, that was a low estimate so my daughter claims!

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        Honda might have the worst historical paint quality of any OEM.

        • 0 avatar
          johnds

          Chrysler/FCA has huge problems with paint on their minivans. Case in point car and driver’s Pacifica and I recently went into my local chrysler dealer to test drive one, and they gave me one to drive that was peeling paint. ’17 Touring L.
          I also see a lot of Ford products and some GM products losing paint on the rear hatches.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            I’ve seen paint issues from nearly ever make but I’ve seen it the most on Honda vehicles.

            To Honda’s credit though my understanding is that they issued recalls related to some of the worst offending models.

        • 0 avatar
          bullnuke

          My former OEM coating company (one of the “big three” PPG, DuPont, and us) attempted to offer our coatings (paint system) to Honda in the ’90s. They declined – at that time they were bringing their paint from the old country and corrosion preparation consisted of a phosphate wash of the raw steel prior to installing primer, color, and clear. Not sure of what/who they use now but what they formerly did was a recipe for corrosion in the salt-belt.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            It’s improved somewhat. For example, the 7th-Gen Accords (2003-2007) are starting to show rust on the rear fenders where the bumper joins at the bottom, but I haven’t seen that happening on the next generations, the 2008-2012s.

            Of course, that Accord was the nadir anyway: bad interior quality, brake issues, ponderous handling, variable-displacement issues (VCM) on the V6s, and probably a couple others I’m forgetting.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    A couple of years ago I read a very interesting analysis about “Peak Japan”. That time around the late 1990s where Japanese autos, microchips, cameras, steel, robots, television and other consumer electronics were the World’s undisputed leaders.

    There was even talk that its economy would surpass that of the US.

    Fast forward 20 years. Not only Japan failed to reach the US, it has been surpassed by China. Consumer electronics has been wrestled away by that country and Korea.
    And if one believes forecasts, even India’s economy will surpass Japan in the next 20 years.

    And since this is an automobile blog…..automobile quality and reliability, while still very good, has lost its platinum grade.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      No. Honda’s quality has lost its platinum grade. Toyota’s hasn’t, and Mazda’s has actually improved. (Nissan doesn’t count since they’re no longer a Japanese company.)

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Toyotas seem to still be very reliable, but they aren’t “nice” like they used to be. Boring as a piece of white toast with no butter, but nice. The interiors are now horribly cost-cut. And of course, they have been beaten with the ugly stick inside and out.

        Hondas have always been nasty tin boxes to me, though some of the 80s and 90s ones like the Civic hatch and the CRX were FUN nasty tin boxes. Rampant rust, usually blowing blue smoke out the tailpipe at higher mileages though.

        I agree Mazda has done a decent job of trying to go upmarket.

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    Ive had 4 hondas. A 88 prelude si, 02 crv, 2015 accord and 2016 odyssey.

    Ive been a happy honda owner BUT the accord and odyssey dont measure up in terms of interior material quality and assembly compared to the old prelude and crv. The old solid quality plastic parts held in by tons of fastners making it feel like one solid unit…have given way to thin cheaper plastics that arent held as solidly together giving parts a flimsey cheap feel in alot of places….but frankly the same goes for toyota…subaru..everyone.

    • 0 avatar
      johnds

      I am in the same boat, however I see some good compromises. The newer models will perform a lot better in a crash test, and if you live in a midwest state like I do, you’ll notice rust control has gotten 100% better since the mid 90’s. Also with proper maintenance excluding the V6, you don’t have timing belts, and other wear items like distributers, ball joints, etc seem to last 200,000 or more miles in my experience. My old 80’s and 90’s Hondas rusted away and had a lot of wear items to replace. The introduction of high strength steel sure helps keep you safe.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      I’m with you 3800FAN, and it’s definitely an industry wide problem, except in the cases of the domestics where they generally have improved from recession era cars to now (FCA in particular thanks to Sergio pushing that issue heavily).

      My family’s 90 Civic had a really tidy, simple but well screwed together interior. Our ’07 Fit had a paper thing carpet, a lot moree hard plastic. My ’12 Civic was nothing to write home about either. I sat in a friends’ 17 Civic and it’s the worst yet. He’s also had some surprising warranty work at low mileage. Wiper linkage failed, some kind of suspension/subframe noise, cowl trim failed, very poor panel alignment on the hood/fenders. Toyota is right there with them with cheapened interiors and other components. My 2012 Camry in 2019 at 89k feels like it has more wear than my ’96 ES300 at 209k in 2017.

      • 0 avatar
        Robotdawn

        I generally maintain pretty much all makes have gotten so much better quality-wise even the worst is miles better than even 2009, let alone 2000.

        However, I’m still leery of FCA products, and would only lease/not buy a Jeep when the wife wanted one a few years back (good decision). And even though I’ve owned 80% GM cars in my life I don’t defend their quality against the likes of Toyota and Honda, no way. Any other makes I’d defend GM to. Not those two.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        The Civic has always felt behind the Accord in interior fitment and tactile feel, even back to the 1990s. The current gap is no different, though it seemed that the cloth on the interior felt cheaper than usual the last time I sat in a Civic.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          I’m saying a 2020 Civic feels WORSE in terms of material and overall quality and assembly than a 1990 Civic. The gap between the Civic and Accord? Sure I wouldn’t doubt it.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            I am wondering if it is not so much declining quality with Honda as the fact that most other manufacturer’s have improved so much?

            A ‘peak Honda’ vehicle had some pretty poor competition. And vehicles overall were somewhat simpler in that era.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Honestly Arthur I was looking at a classified listing of a ’89 Oldsmobile Delta 88 locally and was smitten with how nicely trimmed the interior was with plush velour on the doors, real chromed metal pieces, soft touch vinyl with some fake stitching elements on the steering wheel, etc. Chrysler in the 90s had some nicely made/styled interiors as well IMO. Everyone has moved away from nice feeling durable cloth with some real “pile” to it to this slippery or scratchy neoprene type crap. Different manufacturers have had their ups and downs, Chrysler case in point went from generally decent in the mid 90s, to utter garbage by 2006ish, back to decent by 2011. For the Japanese, it’s been a steady downhill slide all the way.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    The three Hondas in my driveways are the best cars we’ve ever had, but the next car I buy will be from Toyota. Chasing CAFE scores has killed their drivetrain durability, and that’s created pressure to cur costs everywhere else. Some people assumed that since they made small displacement engines that could pass emissions standards and last 300,000 miles while performing like SCCA C-production racing motors, they would be able to make Chicom-compliance engines better than the ones from Germany or Korea. Bad technology is bad technology. Thermodynamics are thermodynamics. It is sad, but Honda’s own designs were better than globalist sheep deserved.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I fear Toyota -the last bastion IMO- will go the same route. Perhaps not between the fact they strike me as smarter than that and the fact the hybrid technology they invented and continue to offer puts them in a decent place with the statists.

      • 0 avatar
        jack4x

        Conservatism (not in a political sense obviously) has been deeply embedded in Toyota’s corporate mindset for decades. For both good and bad of course. In this case good IMO.

        I guess we will see over the long run if that makes them Old GM or Berkshire Hathaway.

        • 0 avatar
          ToddAtlasF1

          Toyota is so conservative that they made four valve heads standard when the rest of the industry thought they were exotic technology suitable for racing engines and limited production cars that tended not to deliver on their promise. Before the Corolla F/X16, the only 4-valve production cars offered in the US had been depression-era super-luxury cars, the Jensen Healey, the Lotus Esprit, and the Cosworth(one Vega for the price of two!) Vega. Within a few years, all Toyotas would have 4 valves per cylinder. When the Lexus LS400 revolutionized the luxury car market, it brought engine technology that the Germans and Detroit rushed to copy. The RAV4 created the modern CUV class. The RX300 created the luxury CUV segment. The second Tundra made Detroit half-tons seem feeble. Then there is the Prius. What was conservative about it?

          • 0 avatar
            chaparral

            Even before that – Toyota was the first to put a five-speed in their cars, and made it standard first.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            Not much for the last two decades then. Unless hydrogen takes off I don’t see where Toyota is poised to pull off another power train revolution.

            I like the company but I certainly get the feeling that they aren’t looking to be the tip of the sword on much right now.

          • 0 avatar
            tomLU86

            I must be getting old.

            I’ve enjoyed bashing Toyotas. Reliable but BORING.

            Conservative. But as noted above, they have led the way on key innovations.

            Here is another one: I believe the original US-Spec Camry (1983 or 1984) was the first mass market FWD car with a 4-speed automatic.

            And, while some of their products have been ugly or sub-par, other than the leaf-spring shackles or their rusty frames, and the sludge build up on V6s in the late 90s, I tend to buy into the perception their cars are well-built.

            Every automaker is doing the same stuff. They don’t sit and think “how can I screw the customer today”

            No, they sit and think, “How can I cut cost”. More screw cost more and take more labor. Plastic retainers cost less. Anything that costs money that they think the customer won’t notice, they try to cut.

            It’s sad to see that Honda, which in the 80s/90s might have had a better perceived quality reputation has slipped. But also, their cars (not CUVs, cars) look kind of ugly. Even the Accord is trying too hard. So, while the Accord gets raves, AND still has a manual trans, I couldn’t live with the looks. The Civic is even harder on the eyes.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            Toyota pioneers new technologies when they are actual advancements, not to follow the herd or for planned obsolescence.

          • 0 avatar
            Fordson

            Volkswagen GTI’s could be had with 16V engines in 1986. They had 4-wheel discs in I think 1984, and five-speed manuals in 1979. Fuel injection came to GTIs and Golfs in 1976, I believe.

            None of the Japanese cars of that ilk had fuel injection until much later.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            VW still offered the 2.SLOW in 2015. It was their only engine that achieved average reliability in the US market. They’re also the mascot for the why-tech disposable ChiCom compliance shackles that people buy Toyotas to avoid.

          • 0 avatar
            Fordson

            You addressed nothing that I just wrote. The things you wrote are your opinion…which is fine, but I am just stating facts…so non sequitur.

    • 0 avatar
      volvo

      I guess I cannot reconcile quality control and cost/profitability. Choose one or the other.
      Small displacement turbos and CVTs recently introduced means I would wait awhile before buying a Honda

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      As I’ve stated, I’m the guinea pig with my 2019 Accord 2.0T Touring. So far, so good, but we’ll see.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    “According to Reuters, he has yet to take his eyes of the prize”

    Seems that Hondas not the only one having quality control issues!

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    My one and only Honda was an 05 Odyssey that was a lemon for its entire 20-month miserable life with us, and the dealer’s service was worse than the car. We jettisoned it for a 98 Grand Caravan the minute the lawsuit settled. That’s right – I favored an old Dodge van over a new Honda.

    So many mfrs and dealers fail to realize that one bad experience can cost them a customer forever, and possibly those they tell about it. Despite others’ good experiences with the brand, mine was awful, and it will be a very long time before I own another Honda.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      “My one and only Honda was an 05 Odyssey that was a lemon for its entire 20-month miserable life with us, and the dealer’s service was worse than the car. We jettisoned it for a 98 Grand Caravan the minute the lawsuit settled. That’s right – I favored an old Dodge van over a new Honda.

      So many mfrs and dealers fail to realize that one bad experience can cost them a customer forever, and possibly those they tell about it. Despite others’ good experiences with the brand, mine was awful, and it will be a very long time before I own another Honda.”

      I could have written those words.

      Wait–I *have* written those words.

      I have three superb stories about Honda’s customer treatment that I love to tell–as a prelude to telling exactly why American Honda won’t get another dime of my money, ever.

      It’s not that you make a mistake; it’s how you recover from it that counts.

      The me of 15 years ago would be aghast at seeing the me of today with two VW GTI in the garage, side by side. The me of 15 years ago would want to have the me of today committed.

  • avatar
    Carrera

    Since I’ve been licensed to drive in 1993, I’ve owned a bunch of Hondas such as 1988 Civic ( bought with 156,000 miles, sold at 176,000), 1988 Accord ( bought with 120,000 miles, sold with 150,000), 1995 Del Sol ( bought with 40,000 miles sold with 80,000), 2001 CRV ( bought new, sold with 140,000), 2006 Pilot ( bought new, still own and is flawless at 218,000)and 2007 Ridgeline ( bought with 9,000 and sold at 125,000).
    The smaller ones, including the Japanese made CRV have been flawless, and by that I mean, oil changes and filters. When I traded in the CRV for the Ridgeline, I did it because I needed a truck with AWD not because it was anything wrong with it. The bigger vehicles ( Pilot, Ridgeline) while very good overall, had little things that bothered me, but only after owning so many flawless ones. The Pilot had some interior trim issues that were pretty much attributed to being the first year coming out of a new factory ( Alabama vs Canada). Mechanically though, the Pilot has been without any issues in 218,000 miles. All I’ve done was the required maintenance with Honda fluids of course and synthetic oil since new. The Ridgeline had a TSB for 2006 and 2007 models with water intrusion into the cabin. The wrong caulking was used at the factory. Also, the return line for the power steering broke at 80,000 miles and needed replacement. Still, two issues that I’ve never had with my smaller Hondas.
    Currently Honda does not build anything that gets my attention. Also the turbo engines give me pause due to the oil dilution issues that have no fix as of yet. The only fix is a redesign of the engine. Also, a very insidious problem that will affect second owners, not necessarily initial buyers. No, Honda is not what it used to be. Slowly I’ve been going to the dark side ( Toyota).

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I’ve had consistently good experiences with the four Hondas I’ve owned (1988 Accord, 2004 TSX, 2006 Civic, and 1995 Legend, in that order). I still like some of their products (Civic Si, Accord, CR-V, MDX Sport Hybrid). But it definitely seems like they’ve been losing some of the engineering magic, probably in the relentless march toward cost cuts. And I’ve chosen a Toyota product over a Honda one in three straight purchase decisions. Each time was for different reasons but it’s certainly a trend.

  • avatar
    Offbeat Oddity

    Glad to see they’re addressing their issues. I’ve had great experiences with my 2007 Accord, 2011 CR-V, and 2016 Civic (2.0, not 1.5, thank goodness), although the Civic had an A/C repair which I didn’t expect at such a young age. Some think that the CVTs are causing the quality to drop, but actually they seem remarkably durable and pretty trouble-free – it’s the 1.5 that’s causing a lot of issues, and it needs to be dropped asap. They also need to tighten their assembly tolerances- my Civic’s body panel gaps are mostly uniform but should be much thinner, and the rear of some 2017+CRV’s have very wide and inconsistent gaps. The Civic does seem solid though.

    If I were in the market today, I wouldn’t shop Honda, but I’m not sure if I could make the switch to Toyota, either. They may be more reliable, but the 2019 RAV4 I rode in had a cheap feeling interior, a loud, coarse engine, and uncomfortable back seats. Their mid-90s-mid-00’s vehicles felt better-built, with more quality materials. That would probably lead me to Hyundai and Kia.

    Hopefully Honda will be back toward the top in a few years.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I had the same experience with the previous RAV4. Oddly, the Highlander is a completely different animal. My 2016 Highlander honestly has a feel of “fat Toyota” about it, with quite good material quality almost everywhere and an opulently plush ride.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    I grew up in Hondas in the 90s. We were nuts about them. Accords, Civics, Integras, Acura RSX, all 4 cyl, all manual transmissions. There was nothing that combined the build, quality, fun to drive, family hauling etc than a Honda. Toyotas may have had a slight edge on quality, but man were they boring.

    Today, I still have a soft spot, but there are a lot of good cars out there now.

    Will throw in that Acura is 3rd last in consumer reports latest reliability ratings. Beating Alfa and Cadillac (GM should be ashamed as well). But who would expect that from a Honda.

    Today, if you want quality, Toyota and Mazda. Toyotas finally drive somewhat decently. And major props for non-turbo motors and regular old automatics.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenn

      “And major props for non-turbo motors and regular old automatics.”

      Along with Toyota’s combined direct- + port-injection fuel system, which should markedly cut maintenance and repair costs, down the road.

  • avatar
    nitramaj

    I’ve been driving for 22 years now, and I’ve only had three Hondas during that time. My experience is that the interior quality is declining, but the overall quality is increasing.

    My ‘94 Integra had a great interior, with all soft touch materials, great upholstery and carpet, but had terrible rattles in the hatch, and lots of small mechanical issues, including a leaky hatch, a radio antenna that stopped going up and down, a leaky radiator, had to replace the starter, etc. It did survive getting hit by two deer, in two separate incidents, however. Haha.

    My ‘06 Accord had a decent interior and decent overall quality. Great upholstery. Radio screen went dark, had a leaky windshield/headliner and a leaky trunk, heater core went out, chrome interior door handles started chipping away,

    My ‘13 Civic has been flawless mechanically, but has the worst interior. Lots of hard touch materials, door panels flex like crazy when the windows raise and lower, awful carpet and upholstery.

    So in the grand scheme of things, I’d prefer Honda to be great at everything, but if they can’t, I guess it’s best that they excel at mechanical reliability and have decent/average interior quality.

  • avatar
    AA610

    count me as one of the people that automatically assumed that Honda reliability was right there with Toyota, or, at worst, just a hair below. Had been eyeing the Accord, but now reading this again, may lean towards a Camry next time around.

  • avatar
    MorrisGray

    If Camry had a manual transmission, that would really seal the deal!

  • avatar
    AtoB

    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.

  • avatar
    Schurkey

    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.

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