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Sales of Honda Civics slip as customizers move on
Sholnn Freeman
Wall Street Journal
Mar. 25, 2004 10:36 AM

For 20 years, the Honda Civic was the favorite ride of young, California car enthusiasts like Anthony Luna. But not anymore, and that's a problem for Honda Motor Co.

Mr. Luna's tricked-out Honda Civic has won him ribbons and trophies, free goodies from dealers and lots of attention. But Mr. Luna, a 22-year-old computer technician in Ceres, Calif., replaced his Civic in November with a more powerful Nissan 240 SX from 1992. "I outgrew it," he says of the Honda. "Most of the people are moving to all the different brands."

Beginning in the early 1980s, Civics, often used ones, were highly prized among young car customizers - or "tuners" - like Mr. Luna. Souping up their cars with chrome wheels and high-performance engine and suspension parts, the tuners are a small part of the U.S. car-buying public. But they helped keep the Civic hip, which allowed Honda to sustain strong Civic sales without factory-to-consumer discounts. Now, Civic sales have been slowing, and signs that Honda is losing its status among young drivers are stirring Honda's conservative product planners to act.

Tom Elliott, Honda executive vice president of U.S. operations, says the Japanese company plans to introduce a new car next year to counter a growing number of rivals in the tuners' segment of the market. This new car would join the boxy Honda Element compact SUV, launched in 2002. The Element has outperformed Honda's sales expectations - but largely because it has been a hit with baby boomers. "The Civic, the Element - none of these are our last efforts at trying to attract younger buyers," says Mr. Elliott.

Mr. Elliott didn't offer many details, but he said the new car will likely be priced below the Civic, which starts just under $15,000. The new car will give Honda a vehicle to battle the rise of Toyota Motor Corp.'s Scion youth-car brand, which it plans to expand nationally this year. "There's no question that competition in that segment is getting stronger and more numerous," Mr. Elliott says.

For Honda, rejuvenating the image of the Civic is a critical challenge. The Civic is Honda's second-best-selling model in the U.S. (the Accord is Honda's No. 1 U.S. seller), with annual sales of about 300,000. The Civic is the first Honda many customers buy. But Civic's U.S. sales fell 4.3 percent last year, underperforming the overall U.S. small-car segment, which declined just 2.8 percent compared with the prior year. And data compiled by J.D. Power & Associates's PIN Information Network show that 20 percent of Civic buyers were 25 years old or younger last year, down from 26 percent in 1998.

In a rare concession to sales weakness, Honda recently began offering $400 factory-to-dealer discounts on the Civic. Honda's average rebate per Civic in February was $1,403, compared with $971 a year ago, according to Autodata Corp. That's still far below the $2,906 industry average for the month.

For years, Honda kept a hands-off attitude to the Civic customizing craze, generally avoiding a direct marketing appeal to young enthusiasts, a group sometimes referred to in the industry as "the fast and furious," after a movie with that title that celebrated the import-car street-racing culture. In 2001, Honda redesigned the Civic and made it more family-friendly and sedate, which in turn left the tuners feeling slighted.

In 2001, Honda redesigned the Civic and made it more family-friendly and sedate, which in turn left the tuners feeling slighted. Last summer, at an import-racing event in Irwindale, Calif., the crowd booed when the announcer mentioned Honda.

"We got turned off to Honda because they are not interested in their youth market," says Edgar Aguilar, a 23-year-old student in Modesto, Calif., who joined in the booing.

"They're taking steps backward instead of forward," says Mr. Aguilar, who replaced his Acura Integra GSR with a Subaru WRX. "Every Honda and Acura owner is ready to get out of their Hondas and into something else."

One big problem for Honda is that there are many more alternatives for disillusioned Civic enthusiasts than in the past. A big winner at Honda's expense has been Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd.'s Subaru. Young buyers who want power can chose the WRX, which has a cult following from videogames and European rally racing. To meet demand, Subaru has doubled production of the super-fast, 300-horsepower STi version of the WRX.

Detroit's Big Three are moving in on the Civic, too. DaimlerChrysler AG's Dodge Division now offers a 230-horsepower SRT-4 Neon. General Motors Corp. is planning a tuner-friendly version of its upcoming Cobalt small car.

It's enough to make a Honda dealer nostalgic. When the Civic was a tuner's car of choice, "other auto makers were envious," says David Conant, a big Honda dealer in Southern California. Now, he says, "they've got their toe in the door, and they are going to kick it wide open."

Full Article Here

 

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thats when happens when you depend on an unloyal market. they'll turn on you, and buy a suburu, because thats the next "coo car" to have without even considering purchasing your product again. :woot2:
 

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Serves em right. For years Honda always withheld their hottest R series cars from the U.S. Market. Subi WRX and Mitsu EVO snuck in and the SRT-4 came along and now a high powered SS Cobalt (we hope) is comming and mabey a Pontiac and they outclassed the Civic Si. Plus the redesign of the Civic Si is UGLY as sin. Serves em right.
 

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It's all coming apart at the seams! :D
 

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Originally posted by yoblues@Mar 25 2004, 05:25 PM
Serves em right. For years Honda always withheld their hottest R series cars from the U.S. Market. Subi WRX and Mitsu EVO snuck in and the SRT-4 came along and now a high powered SS Cobalt (we hope) is comming and mabey a Pontiac and they outclassed the Civic Si. Plus the redesign of the Civic Si is UGLY as sin. Serves em right.
Right on! All these years, Honda only gave us the "Type Si" versions which were around 40HP below the "Type R" version that the Japanese have been getting all along. The Integra was a great car, but when the RSX came out everyone was hoping for the Type R to come here, but instead we got the lamer Type S...which was still more expensive than the previous generation Integra. Wow, increasing the price significantly---good job Honda! I'm glad that the Lancer Evolution and Impreza WRX STi are finally in the States, so young teens have other choices. Those two companies got it right on the first try, and look at the sales!
 

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I think the time has come to knock honda down. Its nice to see other compaines like dcx/ford and gm pushing them around. The best part of this story is the hidden information about the wrx that general motors has alot of stock in its parent company fuji and more or less controls what goes on. I say don't kick the door open but knock the wall down and it's coming big time!!
 

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I think back then, most Honda boys at heart really wanted something like the Mitsubishi Evo, which was only available in Japan and elsewhere. Now that the WRX and Evo are in the states, they don't have to dream anymore and can buy the real things.

Now younger people are also more informed, so most of them probably know that a FWD drivetrain with a 1.8L econo-motor doesn't equate to performance.
 

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The EVO's ans STi's are a far cry from the 1.6L Civic terror that spawned the rise of the ricers. It seems now that the ricers have finally grown up and picked out CREADABLE cars - not garbage.
 

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Now younger people are also more informed, so most of them probably know that a FWD drivetrain with a 1.8L econo-motor doesn't equate to performance.
i'm actually VERY happy with the performance of my 1.8L VTEC. besides, Civics, including the Si, have 1.6L engines. however, i am right with this one. they ruined the Civic when they dumped the double-wishbone front suspension in favor of a MacPherson strut setup, and now the RSX (Integra still in Japan) has it too. the car just doesn't handle the same. driving dynamics were everything in those cars. i guess i'll continue to hold on to my Integra.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Originally posted by SUPERBADD75@Mar 25 2004, 11:04 PM
they dumped the double-wishbone front suspension in favor of a MacPherson strut setup, and now the RSX (Integra still in Japan) has it too. the car just doesn't handle the same. driving dynamics were everything in those cars. i guess i'll continue to hold on to my Integra.
Ouch, I didn't know they did that to the RSX, too..... :flush:
 

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Yeah but so what if they changed the suspension? Civics have always driven just like what they are--- El Crappo econo-cars. They're a decent piece for the price but saying the current one doesn't handle is like expecting a Buick to run the Nurburgring in under 8 minutes.
 

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civic and good handling in the same line? ;)
And does anyone else hear that sound? This loud singing... sounds like a lady in an opera... man, shes a big girl!! :lol:

blood is in the water.... take a big wiff GM, time to go in for the kill.
 

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:bounce:
Where r u guys getting your info?......u all seem completely out of touch with reality....so what if poeple are moving on?..Honda is not remaining static either..

Those poeple that r moving on are NOT moving on to Cobalts or Vibes...they are still buying imports..GM has closed its mind to a large segment of the population
for to long.....who the hell wants a cobalt when you can have a Jetta....
Sure GM may catch up but they will still be 10 years behind the competion....

And for the person who said 'its time for GM to move in for the Kill'....with what?

Cause theres a big factor.....PERCEPTION.....which takes a long time to change...
Get your heads out of the sand and unclog your eyes & ears....look and listen!!
 

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You have got to be kidding... the Civic is 10X the car the J-body could ever be. All this go go GM is so funny. GM in for the kill, thats great, you mean just like they did to the Mustang... hmmm as Ford out sold them 2 to 1.


The success of the EVO, WRX, and STi doesn't take a whole lot away from the Honda crowd. We are talking about low priced civis with b18 swaps, that is really what the honda crowd is made up of, its about cheap performance, you know like GM offers with is... er.. Vette??? A guy who's budget is a civis isn't the same guy going to buy and EVO or STi.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
HoNdA 4 Evah!

;)

You're right, Honda isn't staying static. The "mystery car" they intend to regain the youth market with is the Honda Fit, or something very much like it.

Honda's Civic has become a porker, so they need to introduce a "Kei" car from Japan to recapture the lightweight, small, and nimble image of the old Civics by introducing a much smaller car.

This is the same as Honda admitting their interest in the Civic as a tuner car is essentially dead. (sure, there might be another Si, but the current one is lame) No one said Honda is dead, just the Civic, and Honda's own people are saying they are going on the offensive with a non-Civic offering.

So the article rings true. Civic = Out, other things (even from Honda) = In.

Honda Fit, the Civic spiritual replacement:
 

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Originally posted by Ming@Mar 26 2004, 03:14 PM

You're right, Honda isn't staying static. The "mystery car"
Nice... But u got it all wrong here is their mystery car :D


Hey it is powered by an overhead cam engine does that mean it is still better then GM's OHV too?
 

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:afro:

you seem like a smart guy...i hope your smart enough not to take all your info from one source.....this article is extremely biased.....

as any smart business should do...honda like gm, (who puts out umpteenth models under the same catagory or class) is simply diversifing...

I'll bet you can find tons of articles giving kudos to honda too....

GM is finally, I hope waking up,...and going away from the..'you will buy, what we make attitude'....it is a philosophy that doesn't work in a global market...
 
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