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Doron Levin
Bloomberg News

Honda's Estimable Accord Steps Down From Olympus: Doron Levin

April 5 (Bloomberg) -- Few cars have attained the prestige or status of the Honda Accord, a family sedan regarded since the 1980s as a benchmark for quality, clever engineering, fuel efficiency and value.

The Accord also has been regarded as a curse, not to mention a taunt, for an entire generation of Detroit auto executives struggling over the last two decades to answer critics about why their models haven't quite caught or surpassed it.

Accord has had a great run -- it was the best-selling car in the U.S. from 1989 through 1991 -- and its quality ratings and resale value remain strong. As the benchmark of family sedans, though, it seems to be fading.

So far this year, it's the sixth-best selling vehicle in the U.S., behind the Ford F150 pickup, the Chevrolet Silverado pickup, the Dodge Ram pickup, the Toyota Camry and the Ford Explorer.

March Sales Down

In an otherwise strengthening U.S. automotive market, Accord sales were off 13.3 percent in March and down 10.2 percent for the quarter, compared with the year-ago periods. The Accord hasn't suffered a serious decline in sales for more than a decade.

Hurt by the Accord's weakness, Honda has given up a slice of market share in 2004, falling to 8.0 percent from 8.3 percent a year earlier.

The biggest stumbling block for Accord seems to be price. While other models have been forced to offer rebates, subsidized financing or volume discounts to rental fleets, Honda has been reluctant.

Honda has argued that discounts ultimately undermine resale value, an important reason why customers keep coming back. Another point, of course, is that there was no reason to discount when buyers were standing in line.

In the past, small discounts, disguised as free options or subsidized leases, were enough to keep consumer demand for Accord strong during slack periods. Today more and more buyers demand cash rebates and are shopping the competition, which is willing to discount similar family sedans more aggressively, such as Toyota Motor Corp.'s Camry and Nissan Motor Co.'s Altima.

Understated Styling

"From a product standpoint we've won every test,'' said Andy Boyd, a Honda spokesman. ``The real story is incentives, and we're loath to play that game.''

Boyd cited Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima as the vehicles that have cut the most into Accord's sales. Other analysts mention Mazda6 and even Hyundai Sonata.

"We don't see Big Three vehicles making much of a dent,'' he said.

Tom Kowaleski, vice president of communications for General Motors, suggested that Accord's relatively understated styling might be a liability: ``The market has been very competitive. Over time those products seem to blend in. We've gotten better at quality, and now American drivers are starting to demand design.''

The U.S. is Honda's No. 1 market. With legendary conservatism -- Honda executives insist they still can't bear the financial risk of developing an eight-cylinder engine -- the Tokyo-based company has produced a strong, steady financial record, maintaining a five-year pretax profit margin of 5.7 percent.

Sales Stimulant Needed

Unless Honda executives can find a way to rekindle growth of Accord's audience, they eventually may face a production slowdown at its main assembly plant in Marysville, Ohio. A Honda spokesman, Yuzuru Matsuno, said March sales ``aren't so bad, even compared with last year, which was unusually strong.'' He said a production slowdown isn't under consideration.

Full Article Here

 

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thats great......Pontiacs G6 is coming out soon and hopefully will bite into sales of the accord camry altima and sonata..and become one of the best cars on the market...The G6 has some of camry and accord in it so it kinda helps out on beating both cars in sales in which im happy to hear the accord is falling in the sales dept. I just hope the people who would look at a accord would also look at grand prix or G6 (when it comes out)
 

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Though I'm happy to hear that someone besides Detroit is having a bit of no-so-good news, the conclusion to the article is how I, too, interpret Honda's predicament:

"...Honda isn't in trouble. Considering the strength of other models such as its Pilot sport utility vehicle, the company's not even close to getting in trouble. Yet the narrowing gap between Accord and other models in its class will certainly lift the competition's morale."

But, it's nice to see them coming a bit closer down to earth.
 

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Do you notice the little bit of arrogrance seeping into Honda's interviews? The statement about "It can't be the product. We win every test." Hmmm. Sounds alot like GM in 1991. Honda may be reading too much Car and Driver.

Honda had better develop a RWD platform capable of holding a V8 since the market seems to be moving that way. Or will we simply buy what they tell us to and like it. (Sound alot like BMW too).

Looks like Honda's ready for a little humbling tumble.
 

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Honda doessn't seem to be worried about tumbling Civic sales. Let's face it Honda got complacent and started designing dull cars. Complacency after a twenty year run of growth. Then they say its no big deal...Doesn't that sound familiar.

Sounds like the General in the days of Roger Smith.
 

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Originally posted by markform@Apr 6 2004, 10:26 AM
The new Accord is so UGLY, that even the Consumer Reports type lemmings are staying away.

If I bought a Honda, it would be an Element.....some people don't like the Element, but I think it's got an H2 styling theme to it. If I just needed a lower priced car, I probably consider a stripped down Civic.
:brick:

It's true. You don't know how many people I know that are current Accord owners from before this body style, and were thinking about a new Accord, but were disgusted by its strange egg-like front end. The new design isn't totally conservative, since how many cars have that strange front end. But the rest of the car is quite conservative. Its almost as if its having a mid-life crisis or something. Ah well, what come up must come down. Still, Honda did serve to give Toyota a run for their money against the Camry, so they do hold a place.
 

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Yea I hate the way honda keeps clean lines, and simple shape. They need some big akward plastic cladding to spice it up, maybe some very functional side cladding ribs. :rolleyes:


Look at the newest designs GM has comming out, they are moving in the design direction of the Imports, simple, clean design elements. Look at nissan, and acura, they are very good at useing a little to get a lot. On there worst day they still produce a design that is more complete and well thought out than anything GM has on the road today.
 

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Originally posted by geronimo66@Apr 6 2004, 12:48 PM
Yea I hate the way honda keeps clean lines, and simple shape. They need some big akward plastic cladding to spice it up, maybe some very functional side cladding ribs. :rolleyes:


Look at the newest designs GM has comming out, they are moving in the design direction of the Imports, simple, clean design elements. Look at nissan, and acura, they are very good at useing a little to get a lot. On there worst day they still produce a design that is more complete and well thought out than anything GM has on the road today.
:rolleyes: yourself. I wasn't saying I didn't like any imports, I was talking about the odd front end of the new Accord. FYI, I drive a 96 Accord, so I dont have any bias. If anything, you'd think I'd praise the Accord. Sorry. I happen to like GM's new designs a lot, that's why I'm here. Trust me, I speak my mind. If I like it, then I'll say so, otherwise, I'll tell you I dont like it. Sorry.
 

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I wonder how the Accord Hybrid V6 will do. I'm thinking it will boost sales significantly not because of "looks" LOL but because of "technology".
 

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I totally agree with the idea that Honda's styling is definitely in the gutter. Although the two door Accord can look nice in the right color, the tail lights in my opinion are beautiful, yet they are a complete rip off from a Mercedes design. In my opinion, even the two door Civic’s tail lights are a rip off from the Ford Focus. And, never in my life will I understand why Car and Driver and the likes love the Element so much more than the Aztec. The Aztec with the colored grill and nice wheels can actually look pretty good. Sorry, but I can’t say anything for the Element.
 

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HAH! Maybe sales dropped because the Accord is so ugly.
89-93 was boring.
94-97 looked great.
98-02 back to boring, except coupe which looked great.

Now 03+ isn't just boring, it's downright ugly.
 

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Originally posted by GnatGoSplat@Apr 8 2004, 12:23 PM
HAH! Maybe sales dropped because the Accord is so ugly.
89-93 was boring.
94-97 looked great.
98-02 back to boring, except coupe which looked great.

Now 03+ isn't just boring, it's downright ugly.
I have a '96 :p
 

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Again, I must disagree with you. I find the large pizza box headlights are gaudy, the chopped-off looking blank area above the taillights makes the rear look unfinished and chunky, and the squared predominantly vertical shape of the rear side windows and C-pillar are most disharmonious indeed.
It is nowhere near as harmonious compared to the 94-02 generations.
 

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The article is talking about either North American sales or US sales alone; I'm not sure which. There are a couple of reasons why Honda can be complacent about moderately slow sales:

1. They still sell a LOT of Accords.
2. Every Accord still has a ton of profit in it. They're not pushing these things off the lot at a few bucks above invoice.
3. Honda sells cars, trucks, weed whackers, lawnmowers, boat engines, and motorcycles in markets all over the world. Slightly slipping sales on the Accord is barely a blip on the radar, particularly at a time when Acuras are flying off the shelves in record numbers.

I should mention that I'm on my third Honda at the moment, an 04 Accord EX coupe. Before this car I had a 94 Accord EX sedan, and before that a 95 Integra LS hatchback.
 

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As an owner of three Hondas (76,94 and 2k4) I agree the 2k4 styling has a LOT to be desired. The first thing that came to my mind when I saw the 2k4 on a dealers lot was "where is the rest of the car" (from the trunk back)? It's like the bean counters at Honda had to cut cost so they loped the tail end off. The front end of the Accord has some nice flowing lines but stops abruptly at the trunk.
It was a difficult decision to make in overcoming the styling issue of the 2k4 Accord but my past experience with the reliability ('94 Accord) is what help me make the choice. There were some other incentives to sway me also: repeat sale with the same person that sold me the '94 (he was not working at my local Honda dealer, 3.9% for 60 months from Honda and bottom line price at time of sale. Nissan, Toyota and Infinity could not hold a candle to what I paid for a 2k4 Accord EX V6 leather and Nav system.
When I drive the new Accord I don't want my driving experience to end. :D
 
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