Honda Getting Its Groove Back

2012 Honda Civic

About a year ago we posted a story expressing concern that Honda was losing its way. Our writer jgoods commented that the company was drifting on several fronts, saying,

This won’t be news to you car gurus who follow such things, but for a company that’s been on top so long to be sagging in product development, engineering, marketing, and sales—while losing market share to Ford, Hyundai, and Kia—signifies big trouble.

He was absolutely right at the time. The monstrosity that is the Accord CrossTour was newly introduced, the disappointing Insight sales numbers were becoming clear, and the hotly anticipated CR-Z was underpowered and uninspired.

Just over a year later, things seem back on track.

The first thing a company can do to improve its standing in the view of consumers isn’t to release a new product, but to do something that portrays a positive image. In the wake of the horrible Japan earthquake and ensuing production slowdown, Honda vehicles were (and still are) in short supply. At the same time, the company has needed to offer discounts to help increase sales numbers.

In a move rarely seen from automakers, Honda has announced it will extend those discounts to out-of-stock vehicles.

Honda spokesman Gary Robinson told Automotive News,

We know we’re going to have low inventories on some models — Civic is the perfect example. What we don’t want to do is just send those people on their way without taking care of them.

Brilliant. That’s how a company wins back customers! Of course, great product doesn’t hurt either.

2011 Odyssey: looks weird but still the best

MotorTrend recently compared the new minivan offerings from Honda, Toyota and Dodge, with the newly redesigned Odyssey easily taking the top spot. Winning! (Is that still cool, or has the Charlie Sheen ship sailed?)

On the green side of things, Honda has announced that its natural-gas-powered Civic GX will be sold nationwide to the public beginning in the fall of this year. The car has routinely been named the “Greenest Vehicle of the Year” by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and is built in the U.S. alongside the standard Civic. Good news, for sure, though no word on how buyers will regularly fill their tanks with the compressed gas.

With the new Civic set to debut and said to achieve around 40 mpg in regular gas-powered trims, I think it’s safe to say the Honda we’ve always loved is coming back.

Would you buy a natural-gas-powered vehicle over an electric one? I know I would!

-tgriffith

Find Used Cars in Your Area at CarGurus

Used Honda Accord CrossTour
Used Honda CR-Z
Used Honda Insight
Used Honda Civic
Used Honda Odyssey

6 Comments

  1. It’s too early to state that Honda has gotten its groove back–if the midly refreshed and extremely disappointing so called new Civic is any indication(with its cheap interior, carry over styling and dated 5 speed automatics,dated technology, still using drum brakes on the LX and DX models, carry over powertrains). I fear Honda will be too conservative with the redesigned Accord and it will found lacking in styling, features, technology, and Honda will continue to use carryover powertrains and its dated 5 speed automatics (it will lack premium features such as HID lights, push button start/stop, rear view cameras, turn signal indicators in the side mirrors, a/c ducts for the rear seat passengers -etc.) If the Accord is another underwhelming effort by a once great car company–my next car may very well be a 2013 Fusion, Optima or Sonata.

  2. I wouldn’t consider a Civic of any type. Buying a vehicle produced in Japan is just plain bad for our own hurting economy, and people who buy them are hurting themselves and their neighbors. There are many other vehicles, including Hondas, that are at least assemble here in the USA that are available. I would think that after the damage to our house values, 401K’s and jobs that Americans would show a little more responsibility.

  3. As the top two folks have said, Honda has no soul and its products are boring. Giving discounts on out-of-stock cars and promoting natural gas power (at this point) is like clutching at straws. The company should get back to what it used to do best–producing small, well-engineered cars that can get people excited. There is some talk that they may revive the Beat. That might at least change their image. See http://www.autoevolution.com/news/honda-to-revive-the-beat-blending-car-and-motorcycle-tech-36563.html.

  4. Del and Rearden both have good points, but so does tgriffith. Offering discounts on out-of-stock cars? Most automakers and dealers would charge well beyond MSRP. And introducing the GX nationwide is cool too, though I don’t foresee many selling considering there is nowhere to fill them up. (I assume Honda will want people to install filling stations in their garages?)
    There’s still the range anxiety issue that EVs have but personally I’d rather go with natural gas.

  5. Honda is nowhere near getting it’s groove back. They’ve been losing it for years due to offering boring or controversially designed products that have been poor sellers (Insight, CRZ, Accord Crosstour, Element, Ridgeline), or boring mainstream vehicles that sell well despite this.

    After seeing the new Civic, I had to blink to see how it differed from the old (since the 06 model year) one. The interior actually looks like a step backwards, about as industrial looking as a Chevy Express Cargo Van. When I compare this to the Redesigned Hyundai Elantra or Ford Focus, the difference is even more pronounced.

    The new Odyssey is about the only sales hit in recent years, despite it’s questionable “lightening bolt” design cue. Don’t get me wrong, Honda makes good vehicles, but it’s almost like they ignore any focus groups (if they even did any) on what people want inside and out. It’s like they know they make good cars so don’t have to care, which worked when they only had Toyota as a competitor (who also makes boring looking cars), but now with Hyundai and Ford as resurgent competitors who are hitting home run after home run, may need to rethink their strategy. I say all this as the owner of two Hondas, so was obviously a fan and believer in the brand. But were I in the market for a vehicle today, would definitely push Honda further down on my shopping list.

    The CRZ needs to offer additional engines like the Civic Si’s, as well as the base 140HP civic engine. The hybrid thing’s not working, and is not sporty at all (unlike the original CRX which the CRZ is loosely based on).

  6. Boosting sales and coming out with a Civic that gets 40mpg doesn’t mean that Honda’s back. Honda still doesn’t have the soul it used to and is just producing boring economy cars.

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