LOS ANGELES — Honda remains committed to its core car models in the U.S. but can no longer make an economic case for the Fit subcompact, Civic coupe and six-speed manual version of the Accord sedan, all of which are being discontinued after the 2020 model year.
The HR-V subcompact crossover will become Honda's entry-level vehicle along with lower trims of the Civic. The Civic hatchback has grown in popularity at the expense of the Fit and the Civic coupe, and production of the hatch will move to the U.S. from the U.K. next year.
"We are discontinuing one car, but for us the real story is how committed we are to our core car products," said Gary Robinson, assistant vice president of product planning. "We're going to be very much focused on the Civic and the Accord, which effectively created the image of the Honda brand in the U.S."
Robinson said important changes are coming for Civic — which helped establish the Honda brand in the U.S. during the early 1970s, and the Accord sedan, a perennial top seller since the 1980s — without offering any details.
The Civic will be redesigned for the 2022 model year, and the Accord is due for a midcycle freshening for 2021. Likewise, the HR-V is coming to the end of its life cycle, with the first generation introduced for 2016.
The Fit first came to the U.S. in 2006, with the third-generation model on sale in 2015. The subcompact hatchback joins a growing list of cars discontinued by automakers in recent years. Toyota is dropping the Yaris subcompact after the 2020 model year. Chevrolet is ending production of the Sonic this year, and Hyundai's Accent is eventually being replaced by the new Venue crossover.
Honda introduced a new-generation Fit last year for the European market, where it's called the Jazz, but did not bring it to the U.S. That turned out to be the writing on the wall for the small car, which was known for its versatile interior, funky exterior styling and relatively fun-to-drive character in the segment.
U.S. sales of the Fit were flat last year at 35,414. In contrast, HR-V demand rose 16 percent to 99,104.
In Europe, the Jazz is an important product for Honda, with a standard hybrid engine and a "Crosstar" variant with SUV styling. U.S. buyers are warming up to hybrids, but in larger vehicles such as the CR-V, which now comes in a hybrid variant.
The Civic coupe and the Accord manual were outliers in a market where two-door vehicles and manual transmissions have plummeted in popularity. The coupe accounts for just 6 percent of all U.S. Civic sales compared with 16 percent four years ago, Honda said. And the Accord with a stick has just a 2 percent take rate.
In fact, Honda ended production of the manual Accord in December and still has enough inventory for the rest of the model year. While the Fit lives on in other markets, the Civic coupe is no longer sold outside of North America.
Fit production for North America will end at Honda’s plant in central Mexico, which will expand its output of the HR-V.
While automobile enthusiasts praise automakers who remain committed to car styling and manual transmissions, there simply are not enough buyers to sustain them for most models. The Civic retains its manual transmissions in sedan, hatch, Si sport trim and the track-ready Type R performance variant.
"I get it that there are people who will be disappointed, but I have complete confidence that what we're going to be able to offer people in the marketplace, they're not losing anything," Robinson said.