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Honda CEO responds to Civic criticism
Extraordinary admission from CEO following latest Civic sedan’s poor US reception
5 Dec 2011
By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in Tokyo
HONDA shocked the world press at a roundtable Q&A session at last week’s Tokyo motor show when company president and CEO Takanobu Ito admitted it had underestimated the competition when developing the latest Civic sedan, and that Honda must try harder.
Mr Ito said he accepted responsibility for the latest model not being as advanced as it could have been, which has disappointed fans of the brand and allowed rival small cars to catch up.
However, while he promised that Honda would listen more carefully to its customers and improve the Civic “on a daily basis”, the company head did praise the two previous-generation models for raising the bar across the class and prompting improvements in rival offerings.
Due in Australia in the middle of 2012, the ninth-generation Honda small car has suffered a spectacular fall from grace in the United States, with sales down by around 10 per cent so far this year, despite the vehicle only going on sale in April.
Citing inferior brakes, dynamic performance, interior plastics quality and equipment levels, the influential consumer advocacy group Consumer Report failed to recommend the Civic sedan for the first time in the model’s 39-year career.
Mr Ito noted that the previous-generation Civic “was extremely advanced”.
Left: Honda president and CEO Takanobu Ito. Below: Civic hatch.
“At that time its competitors were not so advanced,” he said. “I think it was something of a surprise (to our rivals).
“At that time we tried to measure the degree of advancement that we thought was required (for its successor). I think we tried to carry over the concept as it was so successful, and so that is how the new Civic came about.
“We do think this new Civic also has competitiveness (but) we are aware in the United States (and in some other places) there are people who are criticising it and saying that it is not up to their expectation.
“These are some of the opinions expressed by some newspapers and magazines. We have to sincerely listen to these voices and accept these opinions as such.
“It is true that we lacked the capability to understand beforehand, and that such reactions surprised us and therefore it is true we should have studied these things more carefully. That is the thing that we recognise.
“(But) because the previous Civic was extremely advanced, I think that competitors felt extremely threatened so they came up with very competitive products.
“So we may have underestimated the opposition to a certain extent, but we will continue to try to improve (the Civic) on a daily basis.”
US reports in late October suggested that Honda was rushing through a number of changes for release there in 2013, a year ahead of schedule.
According to one story, the Civic is due to receive higher-quality interior materials, improvements to steering feel and more standard features.
It is worth noting that US-market sedan and coupe models are American-made while the Australian-bound ninth-generation Civic sedan will be imported from Japan.
The redesigned hatch, which will again be built in Britain, is due here in 2013.
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