Battered By Criticism And Low Sales, Honda Announces Civic Redesign

Stung by sluggish sales, consumer criticism and bad reviews, Honda announced today that it would revamp its Civic only eight months after it released its latest model.

Critics noted the newest Civic was made from cheaper materials, had slower braking capability compared to its predecessors and failed to receive “recommended” status from Consumer Reports.

Tetsuo Iwamura, chief executive of American Honda Motor Co., made the announcement during an appearance in Detroit on Tuesday. The move comes as part of Honda’s ambitious goal to lift U.S. sales by 24 percent in 2012. Civic sales have been trending in the opposite direction.

U.S. sales of the Civic have fallen 13 percent this year to 200,690, according to researcher Autodata Corp, while Honda’s overall market share in the U.S. dipped one percentage point to 9 percent.

In the past, claims to the compact car market was essentially a two-company race between Toyota and Honda. But two natural disasters disrupted production this year, and competition from the domestic automakers has intensified. The Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze have been gaining traction. And combined share for South Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia has risen to 9 percent, up from 7.8 percent in the same time period, according to BusinessWeek.

“The competition will continue to intensify,” Iwamura told The Detroit News. Typically, automakers will wait at least three years before redesigning a model.

In August, David Campion, senior director of Consumer Reports’ auto test center, said that the ’12 Civic “ranks near the bottom of its category.”

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