Production Update: Toyota and Volkswagen Ready to Go, Honda Hangs Back

You just read how an announcement from the United Auto Workers poured cold water over the Detroit Three’s tentative plans to resume vehicle assembly in the United States, but non-domestic automakers don’t have that problem.

Sure, they still need to grapple with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, devising new methods of keeping plant workers safe while carrying out the business of building cars, but early May still looks promising to several large industry players. With U.S. auto sales entering a slow rebound, almost everyone’s itching to get started.

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Acura TLX Type S Named in U.S. Patent Application

Acura is trying to get its act together by placing a stronger emphasis on performance in the years ahead. We’ve seen the physical manifestation of that strategy in the Type S Concept. While not intended for production, it foreshadows the next-generation TLX — which is presumed to offer improved powertrain options (as well as returning all-wheel drive) and a sporting variant bearing formerly defunct Type-S badging.

While Acura hasn’t exactly been secretive about its plans regarding performance models, the company has avoided confirming anything for production. But we’re getting closer to that moment. An application filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for the name “TLX Type S” on March 25th indicates Honda is readying its luxury division for something special.

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Shutdown Extension for Mexican Plants, Furlough for Honda Employees

Honda was one of the first automakers to announce a shutdown of North American vehicle production, with the Detroit Three (and others) quickly following suit after the company’s March 18th proclamation. Initially pegged at an optimistic 6 days, the shutdown saw the automaker’s plants go dark on March 23rd.

Fast-forward a few weeks and the shutdown still has a ways to go, with Mexico now seeing an extension of its idle period. Meanwhile, U.S. employees now can look forward to no pay.

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QOTD: Worst Standard SUV Design of the 2010s?

Last Wednesday we pondered the best exterior styling found on SUVs and CUVs of the 2010s. This week, flip the question and consider the visually challenged rides of the past decade instead.

If I recall those distant 2010s correctly, there are plenty of designs upon which one might spill some Haterade.

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Honda and Fiat Chrysler: See You in May

It won’t be a swift return to production for Fiat Chrysler and Honda. Truth be told, the same can likely be said for Ford, GM, and most other automakers with assembly operations in North America.

On Tuesday, we received the latest word on when FCA and Honda plan to restart vehicle assembly.

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Outsource to Detroit: GM Workers to Build Hondas Under EV Agreement

Sometimes, if you find yourself lagging behind the pack and eagerly wish for a quick way to catapult yourself ahead, it makes sense to piggyback on someone else’s work. And in the realm of electric vehicles — brow-furrowingly pricey and time-consuming to develop as they are — automakers are coming to the conclusion that perhaps someone else should do the heavy lifting.

Subaru has Toyota, Ford has Rivian (and Volkswagen), and Honda now has General Motors.

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Honda Snubs Touchscreen Controls: Good Idea, or Great Idea?

As the status of the North American Honda Fit remains unknown, its more evolved global sibling (the Jazz) hasn’t held our interest. With sales of economy vehicles still losing ground to crossovers and U.S. Fit volume going from modest to borderline meager over the last five years, there’s a good chance Honda may not bother updating it here.

The 2020 Euro-market reboot only offers a hybrid drivetrain — a 1.5-liter Atkinson-cycle engine mated to a 96-kW synchronous AC motor — and adds a plethora of standard safety tech and connectivity features. While other markets will see internal-combustion version, the best Honda has on offer is a pint-sized i-VTEC (988 cc) making 120 horsepower. Frankly, it doesn’t seem like a good fit for this market and may explain the company’s reluctance to confirm anything for North America. But Honda has made some changes that we hope carry over to all of its future products, regardless of the name carried on the rear hatch or the engine lurking beneath the hood.

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2021 Honda Insight Sees Minor Adjustments, Fresh Paint

Unless you’re the owner of a Honda Civic and find its fuel economy lacking — a rare combination — the Insight probably isn’t on your radar. Despite being this first hybrid model to grace North American roads, selling more units than Honda predicted, the original Insight was quickly overshadowed by the Toyota Prius. Successive generations performed better by adhering to greater levels of normalcy, with the current generation appearing for the 2019 model year after a prolonged absence.

For 2021, the Insight is due for a refresh. Honda’s keeping the changes light, focusing on adding a handful of safety options and new “Radiant Red” metallic paint hue. Sure, it won’t send people running to the dealership, though it might sway a few prospective Prius customers — a community that’s been shrinking since 2013.

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Junkyard Find: 1980 Honda Accord Sedan
In rust-prone regions, first-generation Honda Accords oxidized to oblivion well before the 1980s were finished, but elsewhere they held together for decade after decade. I still see the occasional 1977-1981 Accord when I walk the rows of car graveyards in Colorado and California, though nearly all of those cars are hatchbacks.Here’s a hard-to-find ’80 Accord sedan in Denver.
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Honda to Shut Down North American Production

Anticipating a sharp drop in demand for its products, Honda said Wednesday that it will shut down all vehicle assembly and powertrain production in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico starting March 23rd.

The length of the continent-wide shutdown, pegged at 6 days, seems somewhat optimistic given what we’ve seen in other regions hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, though one supposes the automaker has to start somewhere.

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2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid First Drive - Smooth, Green Power

I’m not, generally speaking, a crossover fan. That said, I’m not a full-on hater, either — I understand that sometimes people need the utility offered by crossovers. And some of the compact five-seat crossovers, the small ones that aren’t rolling barges, seem to be decent tools for automotive multitasking, at least to my eye.

Take Toyota’s RAV4. Always a hit with the public, if not with enthusiasts, and the newest version is quite good.

And just like the Accord/Camry battles that have been fought since before I could legally drive, the CR-V and RAV4 are fighters in opposite corners, duking it out for buyer’s bucks. Including those buyers who want to go green.

There are many reasons one buys a hybrid — the fuel-economy gains, the green cred, or the “green” posturing/posing — but no matter what the why is, there are buyers out there who want that badge.

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Report: UK Automakers to Switch to a More Useful Product

In times of crisis, companies have been known to turn on a dime to produce whatever’s most needed at a given moment. Detroit automakers churned out all manner of jeeps, armoured cars, and tank killers during World War 2, with American office supplier Remington Rand cranking out .45-calibre Colt 1911 pistols. The Singer sewing machine company made its own batch of 1911s during WWI.

The threat facing the globe right now is not militaristic in nature, but it does pose a clear danger to everyone. It also knows no borders. As the world (in many cases, belatedly) moves to counter the threat of COVID-19, UK automakers might be pressed into service making a different kind of product.

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Honda Odyssey Mildly Massaged for 2021

Clearly aware of what the minivan segment is all about, Honda has refreshed the Odyssey for 2021 with an obvious focus on the fundamentals. Practicality is the name of the game here, and with the Chrysler Pacifica and Toyota Sienna both receiving updates this annum, Honda didn’t want to be caught napping. But that doesn’t mean the brand has snapped wide awake, either.

Odyssey sales were down last year, with Honda unable to break 100,000 deliveries inside the United States for the first time this millennia. While the 2021 refresh could remedy that, the minivan segment doesn’t enjoy favorable positioning at the present time. Its competitors offer more variety, and Odyssey still doesn’t come with all-wheel drive — presumably because Honda thinks it’s unnecessary.

While that’s technically true (snow tires are more useful when the going gets slushy), there’s a subset of car customers who feel it’s a must-have option that Honda will continue to miss. They’ll be heading into Chrysler showrooms to drool over the handsome Pacifica’s laundry list of options or visiting Toyota to weigh the Sienna’s many practical merits against its curious exterior styling and less-than-lovely interior. Honda’s changes are mostly about leaning into Odyssey’s strengths and nullifying its shortcomings, the latter of which weren’t terribly prevalent to begin with.

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Hide and Seek: Honda Clarity Electric Discontinued for 2020

Honda has discontinued sales of its Clarity EV in North America for 2020. Given that the manufacturer was one of the few OEMs to publicly express doubts about rampant electrification, this shouldn’t come as a complete surprise — with any residual shock being nullified by the model’s lackluster demand.

Between the Clarity Electric, (hydrogen) Fuel Cell, and Plug-In Hybrid models, Honda only saw 11,654 U.S. deliveries last year. That’s a marked decline against the 20,000 units sold in 2018 and a hint as to why the EV has been quietly put out to pasture. Most of those sales undoubtedly went to the nationally available Clarity Hybrid. Fueling restrictions have locked the hydrogen variant to California, with the Electric similarly being isolated to the Golden State and Oregon (the Beaver State).

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Ace of Base: 2020 Honda Civic Hatchback LX

Those of us in a certain age bracket, which is to say rapidly approaching our fortieth year or more, recall the Honda Civic as a primarily hatchback form of transportation. Sure, a few weirdos went and got the sedan or coupe but, by and large, the Civic was a hatchback. At least in our town.

Then, it suddenly disappeared from dealer lots in North America. The seventh-gen car was available in coupe or sedan form on this side of the pond, save for the slightly oddball Si and its bent-nail gearstick. Mercifully, it reappeared in volume for the current model.

We’ve studied the Civic sedan and coupe in this series but not the hatchback. Let’s right that wrong today.

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  • Jwee I think it is short sighted and detrimental to the brand. The company should be generous to its locked-in user base, treating them as a resource, not a revenue stream.This is what builds any good relationship, generosity to the other partner. Apple does with their products. My iPhone is 5 years old, but I keep getting the latest and greatest updates for free, which makes me feel valued as a customer and adds actual value. When it is time for a new phone, Apple past treatment towards me certainly plays into my decisions (as did BMW's - so long subscription extracting pigs, its been a great 20 years). Imagine how much good will and love (and good press) Polestar would get from their user base if they gave them all a "68 fresh horses" update overnight, for free. Brand loyalty would soar (provided their car is capable).
  • ToolGuy If I had some space I would offer $800 and let the vehicle sit at my place as is. Then when anyone ever asked me, "Have you ever considered owning a VW?" I would say "Yes."
  • ToolGuy In the example in the linked article an automated parking spot costs roughly 3% of the purchase price of the property. If I were buying such a property, I would likely purchase two parking spots to go with it, and I'm being completely serious.(Speaking of ownership vs. subscription, the $150 monthly maintenance fee would torque me off a lot more than the initial acquisition cost.)
  • ToolGuy "which will be returned as refunds to citizens of the state" - kind of like the Alaska Permanent Fund? Make the amount high enough and I will gladly move to California to take advantage (my family came close to moving there when I was a teen, and oodles of people have moved from CA to my state, so I'm happy to return the favor).Note to California: You probably do not want me as a citizen.
  • ToolGuy Nice torque figure.