WUHAN, China — American customers and U.S. dealers long have been the tail that wags the dog at Honda Motor Co., despite Honda's roots as a Japanese company.
When Honda rushed out a major midcycle update of its previous-generation Civic, the brand's most iconic global nameplate, it was the negative feedback from American drivers, not those in Japan or Europe, that ultimately sway-ed the top brass into making improvements.
But America's pre-eminence in Honda's empire is fading.
China, the world's largest auto market, is on pace to replace the U.S. as Honda's biggest and possibly most profitable sales center. The sea change has far-reaching implications for Honda's U.S. and global lineups and the company's worldwide outlay of r&d and production resources.
Honda is hardly alone in embracing a shift that's influencing carmakers from Wolfsburg to Detroit as companies increasingly kowtow to the almighty Chinese buyer.