Will Honda follow Toyota with its own annus horribilis?
While the manufacturing crisis in Japan has affected almost every automaker on the planet to some degree, the disaster seems to have particularly hit hard for Honda. And, seemingly, the crisis couldn’t have come at a worse time for the struggling Japanese automaker. Just as rival Toyota was measurably hurt last year as it went through its own problems with a recall crisis that affected millions of vehicles worldwide, 2011 may end up as Honda’s annus horribilis.
The combination of rising fuel prices and the manufacturing crisis caused by the earthquake in Japan in March is becoming a double-whammy headache for Honda. At a time when new car buyers are looking for small, fuel-efficient cars, Honda's most popular models may be in short supply. This week, the automaker said its Japanese-built Fits and Civic Hybrids will be in short supply until later in the year, while a “very limited number” of Japan-built vehicles like the CR-Z coupe, Insight hybrids and Acura TSX and RL sedans will be imported. It also added that even though gas versions of the new 2012 Civic are made right here in Canada, production will be "significantly reduced" through at least the summer months, while the launch of a new CR-V compact crossover later this year, has been put off, as well.
Even before the earthquake hit in Japan, 2011 wasn’t looking like a year Honda Canada was going to look back on fondly.
Recently launched new products (i.e. the Accord Crosstour, Insight and CR-Z hybrids, and Acura ZDX crossover-coupe), haven't exacty taken the market by storm, or caused rivals to go back to their CAD-CAM systems. And the proof can be found on the sales charts: For the first four months of this year, the combined sales of its Honda and Acura brands were down 8.1 per cent, making it the sixth-most popular automaker in Canada, behind the Detroit Three, Hyundai-Kia Motors, and Toyota.
And although the Civic has been the best-selling passenger car in Canada the past 13 years, it’s hard to see how Honda will keep that crown without a lot of factory sales incentives. Honda’s conservative redesign of the new 2012 Civic hasn't exactly wowed the critics that Honda's been resting on a reputation earned from past products. It doesn’t help that the so-called “new” Civic isn’t the class-leader anymore. It will make drawing non-Civic buyers into Honda showrooms—away from new rivals at Hyundai, Chevrolet, Volkswagen and Ford—even tougher as the year goes on. Honda enjoys one of the most loyal buyer groups in the industry. But how long can it keep relying on these aging Civic buyers?
And hey, let’s not forget a massive recall for an airbag problem that’s affecting a wide range of Hondas.
What do you think?
Based on the current Honda/Acura showrooms, do you see the automaker returning to its former glories?
Or, like what Toyota is going though, is Honda just continuing along on a long downhill slide?