Monday, March 23, 2009

Another reason to hate Honda: The S2000 says goodbye

Honda lets yet another great product slip through the cracks, unreplaced by something, let alone a half-decent vehicle in the same segment:

Sayonara, S2000 [Road & Track, April 2009]

The S2000 was a great racing-inspired roadster, and the only Honda-branded product with rear wheel drive at the time. The Acura NSX was the only other rear-wheel drive car Honda/Acura made during those years, and that has been replaced with...nothing. Simply phased out, like this car, with no plans for a replacement.

With a new CEO joining Honda's ranks a few years ago (link is provided to show how well Fukui worked out for Honda - he's being replaced soon too), the second-generation Acura TL was one of the most popular cars in its segment, the Honda Accord had actually outsold the Camry for a year, and the new 2006 Civic was taking over the compact car segment. A new - and first - all wheel drive system for Acura could only mean good things going forward, right? Wrong.

While the Civic continues to impress, the overall vehicle market has dropped significantly in terms of sales, just like every other industry lately. The new Acura TL is designed oddly, to say the least; the RL gets no love from anyone and is lagging behind its competitors, and as I've mentioned in this space before, Acura never revived the CL and therefore never challenged the G coupe from Infiniti (which, by the way, is standard RWD with optional AWD). Since Acura is no BMW with only a FWD or AWD version offered on its TL, and only a four-cylinder in its smallest car (the TSX) until recently, I have a hard time figuring out the motivations of Honda's luxury brand.

This is aside from the fact that the new Accord - while impressive - grew to just over full size status in its most recent incarnation (2008 Full Model Change). With Korean competitors increasingly biting into the sales of Honda and Toyota, especially in the bread and butter segments like mid-size and compact sedans, it's amazing Honda decided to cut off the DX (most basic) trim level in the Accord and position the Accord as more upscale than it already was - as even a few years ago you could rack up over $30K on an Accord by buying the loaded V6 version. These are ideas I'd expect from dealership goons, not Honda Corporate.

It's hard to build loyalty into a brand when you can't get the basics right. Sales of the RDX and MDX are okay, but they could be even better if the rest of Acura's lineup was at least somewhat attractive, and people aren't buying SUVs in the numbers they were years ago anyway.

Honda is showing lately (and this does hurt as a former Honda owner) that they are all poorly executed style, with some good substance but nothing substantially better than what's out there from other companies.

One can make the same argument about certain Mercedes products too, but at least they are turning it around with the new C-class and new S-class (as well as a new E-class on the way soon). I'm not worried about the future of Mercedes-Benz, but I am worried about the future of Honda/Acura.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Lively debate is encouraged, but please don't be a typical internet egomaniac or your comments will be deleted.