Honda CEO Ito takes responsibility for Civic's U.S. troubles
Honda CEO Takanobu Ito: "The ultimate responsibility rests with me."
TOKYO -– Honda Motor CEO Takanobu Ito today took personal responsibility for the redesigned Civic's poor reception and sales performance in the U.S. market since its April launch.
"The ultimate responsibility rests with me," Ito said during a roundtable with journalists at the Tokyo Motor Show. "We take inputs from the various markets with sincerity ... and try to work out the best actions for what we have observed. Those decisions rest with me."
For the first time in more than a decade, the 2012 Civic was left off the list of "recommended" vehicles by Consumer Reports magazine, largely due to the poor quality of its cheap interior plastics.
A Wall Street Journal review called the Civic redesign "a betrayal."
The Civic -- along with the Accord, Odyssey minivan and CR-V crossover -- is a mainstay of Honda's lineup. The four models represent nearly 80 percent of the automaker's U.S. sales.
Civic sales have plunged 15 percent to 183,557 vehicles this year through October in the United States -- a market that is up 10 percent during that 10-month period.
The March 11 earthquake in Japan and recent floods in Thailand hindered suppliers from providing Honda's plants with parts, reducing production during the spring and fall. As a result, Civic sales have been surpassed by both the Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Fusion, and the Hyundai Elantra is close behind.
In a recent interview, American Honda executive vice president John Mendel said that Honda was looking at short-cycling the Civic, with its mid-cycle change coming perhaps as early as the 2013 calendar year -- a year ahead of a typical schedule in a five-year cadence.
The new Civic was under development when the U.S. economy imploded about three years ago.
Ito has previously said that Honda believed consumers were going to want cars with lower prices and would be willing to sacrifice some content in exchange.
At the same time, competitors such as the Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze have been introduced with additional features and equipment.
Honda engineers also reversed a decision to make the U.S. Civic larger, keeping its footprint about the same.
However, the European Civic's interior retained a high level of content -– although the compact-car segment in Europe often lures a higher class of customer than the typical entry-level buyer in America.
The U.S. and European Civics use slightly different platform architectures, so Honda could not simply replace the U.S. instrument panel and center console with the European version.
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