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Old 08-06-2011, 08:48 AM   #1
AVANTI R5
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Default Honda at crossroads as Civic panned, Hyundai looms



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TOKYO/DETROIT (Reuters) -- When Honda Motor’s 2012 Civic debuted at the New York auto show in April, critics universally panned its cheap, hard-plastic interior.

It was a discouraging result for a car that accounts for a fifth of the more than 3 million vehicles Honda sells annually and that was supposed to fend off Hyundai Motor’s Elantra in the increasingly competitive small-car segment.

“When I saw the interior, it worried me,” said Tatsuo Yoshida, a Tokyo-based auto analyst at UBS Securities.

“Sure, the mileage was impressive. But Korean brands are upping the ante with game-changing improvements to their cars’ interior. For people buying a new car for the first time, they’re becoming an increasingly attractive option.”
The negative reviews were compounded this past week when the influential U.S. consumer watchdog magazine, Consumer Reports, also gave the new Civic a thumbs-down, rating it the 11th best small sedan out of 12 in the U.S. market.
The influential body blasted not only the Civic’s interior but also its steering, braking, cornering and “annoying” road noise.
The poor rating, some believe, epitomizes deeper problems at Japan’s No. 3 automaker.
Those problems include a view that Honda’s cars are spiraling into mediocrity and threatening the brand’s reputation, which was built on smart engineering and innovation with the first Civics produced in the 1970s.

“Honda built its reputation on engineering excellence,” said Bill Visnic, an analyst with Edmunds.com. “They are becoming kind of a very normal car company.”

How well the four-month-old Civic will fare remains to be seen because the March 11 earthquake in Japan has distorted supply. The model’s U.S. sales are down 10 percent so far this year.

But if demand proves disappointing once supply constraints disappear later this year, it could threaten Honda’s sales projections at a time when investors cite stiffer competition as one of the biggest risks to its performance this year.

“We’ve always really liked the Civic. It’s always been a top pick or close to being a top pick until recently,” said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center.

“(But) when you look at Honda for the past, maybe, three years, they haven’t exactly been stellar,” he said, adding that recent remodeling, including the Pilot SUV and Insight hybrid, have been a step back from their predecessors.

The news for Honda didn’t get any better on Friday.
Honda said it will recall 2.49 million cars, small SUVs and minivans worldwide, including its popular Accord sedan, to repair a software problem that could damage the automatic transmission.

The recall includes 1.5 million vehicles in the United States, 760,000 in China and 135,142 in Canada, the automaker said in a statement. Globally, the recall affects four-cylinder Accord sedans for the model years 2005 to 2010.

Good quality, no appeal
Keeping American customers happy is crucial because the United States is Honda’s most important market, accounting for a third of its sales and even more of its profits.

As of last year, Honda’s market share was still an enviable 10.7 percent, making it the country’s No.4 automaker. Three of its four core models, the Civic, Accord and CR-V, are either the first or second choice for U.S. consumers in their segments.

Sales figures also show the Civic’s share in its segment has risen 2.7 percentage points over the past four years, and that the Elantra’s sales have replaced those of General Motors’ now-defunct Pontiac and Saturn brands.

Consultancy J.D. Power said Honda’s historical popularity was due to its consistently high ranking in its closely watched Initial Quality Study measuring durability and reliability, which it said trumped all other factors when consumers purchase a car. In this year’s IQS released in June, Honda placed first among mass-market brands, while Hyundai fell below the industry average.

Overall appeal
But in another key study measuring satisfaction with a vehicle’s overall appeal, J.D. Power touted Hyundai as the most improved brand and placed Honda fourth from the bottom, tying Nissan just below Toyota.
“It’s great news for Hyundai,” J.D. Power’s director of automotive research, Raffi Festekjian, said. “Reliability is important. But you know what? You still need to make a vehicle that is appealing, fund to drive, and comfortable to sit in.”

That, critics and consumers say, is where the Civic flops.
“The styling leaves much to be desired...and looks bland and generic next to the styling leaders like the Elantra,” one reader wrote about the Civic on Consumer Reports’ Web site. “As a long-time Honda owner, I am really sad that Honda...seems to be doing nothing noteworthy for several years now.”
Consumer Reports itself spared few punches.

“The problems that really hurt the Civic’s score run deeper and they showed up at our test track. Stopping distances are long. The steering is lightly weighted and comes up short on feedback. Body lean appears early in the corners. The ride is marred by frequent short pitches. And road noise still remains an annoying companion.”

Honda’s top engineer, Yoshiharu Yamamoto, defended the Civic, including its interior, but conceded it could be better.

“In the past, the U.S. Big Three lost out to us and their position in the market diminished,” Yamamoto told Reuters. “We’re going to be in that same position if we’re not careful (against the Koreans). We can’t let that happen.”

Not too late
Analysts said it wasn’t too late for Honda to redeem itself. The next Accord model, expected to debut around this time next year, should show a significant jump in fuel economy as Honda mounts a new generation of engines and transmissions. Honda will also have the benefit of lessons learned from the latest Civic.

“If they can achieve the same perceived quality and luxuriousness as Hyundai, I think they can win because they’ve still got the stronger brand,” said UBS’s Yoshida.
“But they have to make sure they conquer new customers. Otherwise, they risk going the way of Buick and Oldsmobile, which ended up with only aging customers who remembered the brands’ past glory.”
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Old 08-06-2011, 11:57 AM   #2
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Consultancy J.D. Power said Honda’s historical popularity was due to its consistently high ranking in its closely watched Initial Quality Study measuring durability and reliability, which it said trumped all other factors when consumers purchase a car.
WHAT?

J.D. Power, you are the most despicable marketing machine.
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Old 08-06-2011, 11:40 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AVANTI R5 View Post
Not too late
Analysts said it wasn’t too late for Honda to redeem itself. The next Accord model, expected to debut around this time next year, should show a significant jump in fuel economy as Honda mounts a new generation of engines and transmissions. Honda will also have the benefit of lessons learned from the latest Civic.
Just like they learned from the Crosstour, Insight, and CRZ? From the ZDX, TL, RL? Honda has really lost touch and needs to fire a bunch of people. Maybe they can pull it out but they are the definition of underwhelming in the best of lights and just plain bad in the worst.
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Old 08-06-2011, 11:46 PM   #4
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This is what they get for not engineering an entirely new platform and instead slightly updating the 8th gen. Honda, this platform is now over 6 years old, that works for Subaru, it doesn't work for you.
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Old 08-07-2011, 01:25 AM   #5
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Yep, Hondas stuff has been going down hill for years. Sales still remain strong though. Amazing isn't it?
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Old 08-07-2011, 01:27 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by FaastLegacy View Post
This is what they get for not engineering an entirely new platform and instead slightly updating the 8th gen. Honda, this platform is now over 6 years old, that works for Subaru, it doesn't work for you.
Funny but true because Subaru even using the same platforms and engines over and over still has their niche AWD market. Honda used to be the maker that would rise the bar but they have gone Toyota conservative and the problem is that there can only be one Toyota and if Honda buyers wanted bland, soulless, reliable transportation they would buy Toyotas.
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Old 08-07-2011, 01:34 AM   #7
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I've never seen the new Civic yet on the road...
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Old 08-07-2011, 01:48 AM   #8
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Gee. Applianceville is not that interesting of a place to set up shop.

They've cancelled all of their interesting cars.

They've made all of their mainstream stuff UGLY AS HELL.

and they aren't offering better tech than their competition.

Gee, why would they find themselves falling off the charts.
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Old 08-07-2011, 09:05 AM   #9
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Although I agree that Ito hasn't done anything for the brand, Fukui sure isn't anything to write home about either. Things would have been much better if he would have just stayed an engineer. I'd go as far to say that Kawamoto may have been the last of the "decent" leaders for Honda.
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Old 08-07-2011, 09:56 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by txl146 View Post
I've never seen the new Civic yet on the road...
yes you have, you just can't tell.

Last three generations have been steps down imo
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Old 08-07-2011, 11:04 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Derbagger View Post
yes you have, you just can't tell.

Last three generations have been steps down imo
Yup, it looks like the last gen Civic from the front, and the last gen Camry from the back. It's remarkably unremarkable.
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Old 08-08-2011, 10:40 AM   #12
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You know what's really a sign of the times for Honda? They have fallen behind in valve timing and head design. Nissan, BMW, and Fiat have all been using continuously variable valve lift for several years now and Honda to my knowledge has not put that in their production engines.
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Old 08-08-2011, 12:42 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by txl146 View Post
I've never seen the new Civic yet on the road...
I saw one, yesterday. The rear looks VERY similar to an Accord rear.
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Old 08-08-2011, 07:50 PM   #14
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Esthetically their cars are so dumpy now, the new coupe is an absolute heifer. The 5th and 6th gen civics were a great balance of style and value (I've always loved the EJ coupe). The Civic got kinda bulky for the 7th generation, then did a total face-plant from there on. Once they killed off the last generation TSX, TL, and S2000, they lost all of my interest.
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Old 08-08-2011, 08:09 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Dex View Post
Esthetically
Aesthetically.

Consumer Reports piled on today in their blog, highlighting how many Honda models either sucked from the outset (current-gen Insight) or have gone downhill in their eyes:

http://news.consumerreports.org/cars...s-laurels.html

Quote:
Most of these redesigns have better fuel economy than the model they replaced. They also do well in recent, more-stringent crash tests. But there are some common shortcomings:

- Stopping distances are often long.
- Fit and finish is declining. More cheap-looking materials are appearing. (Toyota has been prone to this, too.)
- We’ve been complaining about Honda road noise for years. While it’s improved in some of their recent products (Accord Crosstour, Odyssey), it’s still an annoyance in many of their other cars.
- A long-time hallmark of Honda was that the cars were fun to drive. Even mainstream models had great steering feel and body control—both essential ingredients for driving involvement. That entertainment quality has been disappearing with each redesign. The Insight has sloppy on-limit handling with too much oversteer, despite its stability control.
- Honda is stingy with standard equipment and their options structure (or lack thereof) can make it hard to get what you want. Since Honda doesn’t offer options, you usually wind up paying for other features you might not want. For example, want Bluetooth or an ambient temperature display in a Civic? Hope you don’t mind paying for a sunroof in the EX model. (Honda might be listening: They added equipment like a backup camera to lower levels of the Odyssey and Crosstour for 2012.)
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Old 08-08-2011, 09:01 PM   #16
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This goes to show, if you want to review stuff, you shouldn't take advertisements from the manufacturers of the said stuff.
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Old 08-08-2011, 09:19 PM   #17
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Didn't Honda already give on the Civic in other markets?
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Old 08-08-2011, 10:04 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Len View Post
This goes to show, if you want to review stuff, you shouldn't take advertisements from the manufacturers of the said stuff.
… and you shouldn't publish test data and subjective opinions based entirely on a fleet of press cars that may well be ringers that you have only driven around some fabulous foreign locale that doesn't resemble "real life" in much any way except that breathing oxygen is similarly necessary.
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Old 08-09-2011, 07:47 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by arghx7 View Post
You know what's really a sign of the times for Honda? They have fallen behind in valve timing and head design. Nissan, BMW, and Fiat have all been using continuously variable valve lift for several years now and Honda to my knowledge has not put that in their production engines.
There's certainly some truth to that. They developed A-VTEC like six years ago, but it has yet to show up in any production vehicles yet.
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Old 08-09-2011, 02:34 PM   #20
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yes you have, you just can't tell.
True story.

It seems to me that Hyundai/Kia have made everyone step up their game in small and midsized cars, and the Japanese big three didn't get the memo. Whether it worked for them or not, the Cruze and new Focus show that they're at least paying attention.

The new Elantra looks even better than the Sonata to me. The style looks great on the smaller vehicle.
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Old 08-10-2011, 02:16 PM   #21
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Cars.com recommends it
http://blogs.cars.com/kickingtires/2...nda-civic.html
guess consumer reports isn't the end all of automotive opinions

I've seen dozens of 2012 civics around town since they came out
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Old 08-10-2011, 02:40 PM   #22
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RIP:







I'm not saying Honda now builds bad cars, but it definitely seems like everything just kept getting progressively more boring after those examples. This company seems more Toyota-like in their offerings every day. *yawn*
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Old 08-10-2011, 02:57 PM   #23
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Forget the interior. Why is it so big?
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Old 08-10-2011, 03:22 PM   #24
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Honda hasn't made a cool new car since 2002. They stopped making sporty fun FWD cars when they stopped production on the EP3 and DC5, and lost out completely with anything fun with the S2000.
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Old 08-11-2011, 10:39 AM   #25
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The new Civic Si is a joke.
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