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Aaron Gold

Automotive News: Inside the 2012 Civic debacle

By January 9, 2013

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2013 Honda CivicI'm sure many of you know the saga of the 2012 Honda Civic, the all-new model that was panned by most of the press (notably Consumer Reports, though not me) for being too derivative. In a rarely-seen mulligan, Honda introduced a revised version for 2013.

If you're familiar with the auto biz, you know that an automaker can't just update a car in just a few months -- it's a process that takes years. So how did Honda get the 2013 Civic turned around so quickly? Turns out they knew the 2012 Civic was in trouble even before they launched it.

Automotive News reporter Mark Rechtin tells the inside story of the 2012/2013 Civic in an article called How Honda Hustled to Re-Do Civic. AN normally limits these stories to subscribers, but they've been kind enough to make this one free so that About.com readers can enjoy. (Thanks, Mark!) Automakers are often eager to give us a behind-the-scenes look when things go right (check out Car: A Drama of the American Workplace by Mary Walton as an example), but it's rare that we get a candid look at what happens when it all goes wrong. This is a fascinating article and well worth a read. -- Aaron Gold


Photo © Honda

January 9, 2013 at 3:57 pm
(1) hunter1968 says:

The changes they made work.. yes. However, they need to take a lesson on wheels… WHEELS SELL CARS period.

The wheels are better yes, but a far cry from what they could be.

January 9, 2013 at 4:20 pm
(2) Hawaiian Don says:

My closest friend, a hard core Civic afficionado bought the exact 2012 pictured…against my recommendations. Since then, when asked, she simply replies, “It’s fine.”
Not exactly what I am used to hearing about her previous experiences. I know her well enough to know that she woefully watches the crisp lines of Elantras I recommended zipping by. She knows well that those owners will be enjoying 40,000 more carfree waranteed miles at a comparable price.
She works way too hard for her $$$ to be disapponted. I think Honda was glad to have sold her this Civic. Unfortunately, I already know that it will be her last.

January 9, 2013 at 4:33 pm
(3) Brent says:

Interesting article. Thanks for getting it brought out from behind a paywall, Aaron. I thought it was interesting how much was made of the “black-on-black” interior option. One thing I really hate in a car is a black-on-black interior. Another clue that I’m far from mainstream. Or maybe because it reminds me of that $150 mid-seventies B210 I drove right after the divorce.

January 9, 2013 at 5:44 pm
(4) Steve in GA says:

Recognizing a mistake that could (and did) hurt brand image, and then fixing it quickly and at great expense, is not business-as-usual for a large company. It actually sounds more like what a small, entrepreneurial company could and would do if faced with a substandard product rolling off its assembly lines. Congratulations to Honda for jumping on this problem, hopefully before it wrecked public perception of the Civic.

Honda’s quick action on the Civic shows me that they have the capability of fix a dud in a hurry, but it also makes me wonder why they haven’t turned their considerable problem solving skills loose on Acura. The Acura brand also seems to have lost its way, and is apparently not showing up very often on luxury car buyers’ radar.

In that sense, Acura reminds me of Lincoln. Both Acura and Lincoln have too much platform-sharing and the stink of brand engineering with the mass-market cars that are counterparts in their respective companies. That makes both Lincoln and Acura tough to sell in the luxury market.

January 9, 2013 at 6:17 pm
(5) Aaron Gold - Cars Guide says:

Brent, I’m in the minority with you — I find all-black interiors depressing, although I do occasionally find one I like. I think the Buick Encore was the last one. — Aaron

January 10, 2013 at 10:49 pm
(6) Zdravko - Toronto says:

I think they should have just sold the 2011 model for an extra year and avoided all the troubles. I think it was a mistake letting the inferior model hit the market. They might have sold a lot of it, but the brand damage they suffered could prove to hurt them more in the future.

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