Here's How Honda Lost its Mojo
The power of pipe dreams: Honda still trades on its considerable reputation, but it’s been asleep at the wheel since before the GFC
Read this report as a transcript: How Honda Lost the Plot >>
WHAT HONDA WAS
Flashback to the 1990s. Tom Cruise had just made the first Mission Impossible film. Bill Clinton was re-defining exactly what ‘sex’ was. And Honda was still one of the world’s great car companies. You could buy a brand new Honda NSX for most of the 1990s provided you had a loose $200,000+. And it was simply an amazing car.
And if you didn’t have that kind of cash, there were a host of exciting, innovative cars, generally ending in the words ‘Type R’ that were affordable, and which would also take your breath away. Who could forget the brilliant Honda S2000 - impressively designed to be in VTEC mode between 6000rpm and 9000rpm, with a gearbox cleverly designed to keep you between those revs … provided you remembered to change up at 9000rpm, and change back at 6000. Absurdly capable and balanced for the price. It’s a safe bet that nobody ever crashed one of them slowly…
THE FALL FROM PACE
Honda was synonymous with excitement in those days, but in the next decade, the company just lost the will to live. The Global Financial Crisis of the late 2000s was really the final nail in Honda’s coffin, but the terrible Tohoku tsunami of 2011 certainly didn’t help.
During this time, Honda simply stopped innovating. We’re talking about the inventor of VTEC (variable valve timing). The designer of the affordable ‘Ferrari’ (NSX). The world’s largest manufacturer of internal combustion engines - and motorcycles.
Today, Honda has allowed the likes of Volkswagen - and even Hyundai-Kia - to overtake. Both companies offer more technology at a superior price, with a better warranty and a fairer deal on servicing. If the car industry is a race - and, trust me, it is - Honda has slipped from being a front-runner to just another back marker that can’t even see the real leaders from its spot down the back.
Look at the facts:
- Kia has a 7-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty
- Hyundai has a 5-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty
- Honda has a 3-year/100,000-kilometre warranty
- Hyundai, Kia and Mitsubishi have 12-month/15,000-kilometre service intervals
- Mazda has 12-month/10,000-kilometre service intervals
- Honda has 6-month/10,000-kilometre service intervals
NEW CIVIC HATCH
The new Honda Civic, just released in Australia, has a 1.8-litre multi-point injected petrol engine requiring 95RON fuel as a minimum. The Hyundai i30 1.8 makes the same outputs, but manages it on 91RON unleaded, and Mazda’s 2.0 and 2.5-litre engines in the Mazda3, et. al., feature direct injection, and make the Honda 1.8 look like the antiquated boat anchor it is. It also has a five-speed automatic gearbox - tantamount to a museum exhibit in this class of car.
To top it off, Honda even has the gall to allege, in its marketing, that the new Civic hatch is: “re-vamped and re-styled with advanced technology”. However, the engine and transmission seems to have missed out on these alleged advanced technology upgrades, and certainly none of the purported advancements has been sufficient to help Honda compete on warranty or servicing intervals...
In fact, here in Australia, there is not a single petrol engine with direct injection in the entire Honda lineup - and not a single Honda that would excite you enough to buy it. They have even decided to kill off the one decent car in the range - the Accord Euro.
Sales in Australia have plummeted - a direct response to Honda being asleep at the wheel. And at the corporate level, the only thing they seem to be doing is concentrating on big-ticket gimmicks with little to no relevance - like the absurd Uni-Cub mobility scooter, the irrelevant joke that is ASIMO, and the HondaJet, which is what you get when you put a real corporate jet in the tumble drier without reading the care instructions first.
If you’re thinking about buying a Honda today based on its reputation, which still lingers from the 1990s, it’s time for a reality check. Honda today is a mere shadow of its former self. The use-by date has expired. Mazda has become what Honda was, and even Hyundai and Kia are better.