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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