2014 NEW YORK AUTO SHOW

Honda, Nissan: A brand new battle

Honda says the 2015 Fit subcompact, which goes on sale this week, signals a return to the engineering-first ethic of company founder Soichiro Honda.
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The auto industry is always full of head-to-head rivalries, and right now the battle between Honda and Nissan is one of the hottest.

In the first quarter, the Nissan brand overtook the Honda brand in U.S. sales, a reversal from 2013. That lifted Nissan to No. 4, trailing Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota.

As the competition gets more intense, both brands are upping their game:

* At the New York auto this week, Nissan will introduce the redesigned Murano mid-sized crossover. Styling themes developed by Mamoru Aoki, Nissan global design chief, aim to elevate the brand's image, and you can expect the chiseled, aerodynamic look to show up on Nissan sedans. And Nissan is hurrying to market an aggressive freshening of its segment-leading Versa sedan, just two years into the car's life cycle.

* Honda says the 2015 Fit subcompact, which goes on sale this week, signals a return to the engineering-first ethic of company founder Soichiro Honda. The fold-flat rear seats provide more space, and a tweaked torsion-beam rear suspension improves responsiveness -- signs that Honda is willing to spend a few extra bucks to deliver smart engineering. 

And Honda says the Fit is a preview of broader changes to its lineup.

See Monday's weekly print edition of Automotive News for stories on how Honda got its groove back and why Nissan hustled to refresh the Versa.

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