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Honda's Great Gas Mileage Blunder

By: Matt Timion -

From its inception, Honda Motor Co. has been more concerned with fuel economy and emissions than any other manufacturer. This has been evident since Honda entered America s automobile market in 1971 with the "n600." This was a 2-cylinder car that easily achieved 45 miles-per-gallon. They have repeatedly had at least one model of automobile, per generation that has superior gas mileage. These range from the CVCC, the CRX HF, the Civic VX, and most recently the Insight Hybrid.

In the last decade, however, Honda appears to have departed its small car and gas mileage roots in search of bigger profits. The change coincides with the death of Soichiro Honda, the founder of Honda Automotive. When Soichiro Honda died in 1991, an observable change in Honda s business model and priorities surfaced.

With the change of priorities, the economical cars by which Honda was known vanished, only to be replaced by giant trucks, vans, SVUs, and luxury cars that would make our grandparents jealous. The company that was once known for making those little cars became the company that made those big cars. The new Honda appeared to be in direction opposition of what the old Honda was about.

When Honda was busy making giant money-makers, Toyota decided to take a chance and develop something truly amazing: the full-sized hybrid. While Honda later followed suit with a smaller commuter vehicle, it was too late. Toyota had the hearts and minds of people who cared about fuel economy, emissions, and safety. The name Honda reminded people of the giant Odyssey, or the once small but now large Civic. Toyota, on the other hand, sparked images of the clean, efficient Prius and the all electric RAV4.

Honda is now trying to clean up its image, by producing a version of the Civic that runs on natural gas, and even introducing the first commercially available hydrogen-powered vehicle. While these are all giant steps in the right direction, Honda still has a long way to go to make up for a decade of bad decisions.

Honda jumping on the big car bandwagon proved to be a mistake, one which has affected Hondas market share ever since. Profits may be up, but consumer confidence is down, at least compared to Toyota. The history and good name of Honda will definitely help it get back on top of the efficiency game, assuming that they still want the honor. It will prove difficult, however, to win the back the hearts and minds of people after such a disappointing blunder.

Matt Timion owns and operates GasSavers.org. An avid Honda and gas mileage ethusiast, he owns and maintains a number of Honda automobiles, including a classic Honda n600.


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