TOKYO -- Can Honda Motor Co. get its mojo back?
From 1995 to 2000, Honda was the hottest, most innovative Japanese carmaker. A string of hits, led by the Odyssey minivan and CR-V car-based small SUV, set Honda apart.
Toyota Motor Corp. responded by copying Honda's ideas and designs. Nissan Motor Co., Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Mazda Motor Corp. were left in the dust.
Honda's reputation then was reminiscent of Sony Corp.'s in its glory days. Sony didn't unveil a trendsetting Walkman every year. But it came up with innovative hits just often enough to earn a premium image as an innovator and to charge premium prices. Ditto Honda.
Like Sony, though, Honda hasn't had a trendsetting hit in five years. Its hybrid Insight coupe, Accord Hybrid sedan and Pilot SUV broke ground in their own ways, but all missed the mark. Consumers received them with as much enthusiasm as they gave to Sony's answer to the iPod.