How Far the Mighty Have Fallen

In a recent Consumer Reports test, the new Honda Civic scored too low for them to recommend. The Honda Civic has long been a CR darling for an infuriatingly long time, until now. They report:

So what happened? The new Civic feels insubstantial with a cheap interior. You don’t get much feature content for the $19,405 that our Civic LX automatic costs, either. That’s a problem given the high bar set in this class by the new-to-market Chevrolet Cruze, the redesigned-for-2012 Ford Focus, and the redesigned-for-2011 Hyundai Elantra.

But a savvy buyer could sit in a showroom and realize those Civic shortcomings. The problems that really hurt the Civic’s score run deeper and they showed up at our test track. Stopping distances are long. The steering is lightly weighted and comes up short on feedback. Body lean appears early in the corners. The ride is marred by frequent short pitches. And road noise still remains an annoying companion.

So, why now? Well, the Civic is fresh off a lukewarm redesign that saw a few bits like the interior and exterior tweaked, while the engine and suspension were either unchanged or softened. These changes were somehow deemed sufficient against an incredibly strong field of competitors. It is almost as if Honda was a procrastinating college freshmen during finals time. They waited until the last night, got drunk, and then tried to turn in what they did last time.

The worst part of this news is the timing. The Civic’s mediocrity comes during the strongest small car market to date. The Chevy Cruze, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, are ALL better then the dowdy Civic and the geriatric Corolla. At least the Civic is still ahead of the dreadful new VW Jetta.

It is with mixed feelings that this news is viewed. It is saddening to see what was once such a fine product be tarnished by ignorant product planners. Such talent wasted. It is especially to hard to realize that what made Honda great – clean styling, great driving dynamics, in a cheap and efficient package- is gone. It is like watching your favorite sports star phone it in on the court, night after night, or like the career of LeBron James.

On the other hand, this news brings much glee. Now, it is out in the open about the Civic and Honda’s mediocrity. For far too long, they have ridden reputation and marketing to hold onto their spot in the marketplace, instead of having a superior product. The domestic and Korean competition has been leagues better, yet the ignorant car buying public refused to see the evidence. Now, there is nowhere to turn. The most objective source available has called your “tried and true choice” a turd. People will ignore the new version and instead shop for used Honda Civics or another brand.

So yes, a bit of schadenfreude is in order. It is enjoyable to see a car that was undeserving of its praise be knocked down a few pegs. It is also enjoyable to see companies like Ford, Chevy, and Hyundai receive the recognition they deserve for doing the math and making great cars. Here’s also hoping that this news spurs Honda to start making great cars again, instead of using marketing muscle to spin their way to undeserved praise.

Source: Consumer Reports

  

Volt batteries to the rescue!

From the Detroit Bureau.com:

If all goes according to plan, General Motors will be producing tens of thousands of plug-in hybrids annually in the coming years. So, what to do with the batteries when it comes time to sent vehicles like the Chevrolet Volt to the scrapyard?

Even after a decade of use, the lithium-ion battery pack in the typical Volt should have 70% of its capacity left, according to Pablo Valencia, GM’s senior manager for battery lifecycle management. And that means that even as the old Volt is melted down for scrap, those batteries could find new life propping up the nation’s electrical grid.

Starting next year, GM will partner with energy systems giant ABB to begin testing the use of Volt batteries as an energy storage solution that could serve a variety of purposes from preventing blackouts to helping level out the ups-and-downs of alternative energy sources like wind and solar.

Read the entire article.

  

GM clocks in with a $3.2 Billion first quarter profit!

From the Detroit News:

Detroit— General Motors Co. posted a $3.2 billion profit during the first quarter – its fifth consecutive quarterly profit, and further evidence the automaker continues to build momentum after its 2009 bailout.

“It’s a solid quarter,” GM’s Chief Financial Officer Dan Ammann said this morning. “It’s good progress. It sets up a good foundation for the rest of the year.”

Revenue from January through March was $36.2 billion.

The first-quarter results also included a number of one-time gains, including $1.6 billion from the sale of its interest in Delphi Automotive, and $300 million for the sale of preferred shares in Ally Financial, Inc., the financial arm formerly known as GMAC. Excluding special items, interest payments and taxes, GM earned $2 billion, compared to $1.7 billion in the first-quarter last year.

The financial results – GM’s best first-quarter results in more than a decade — benefited from growing demand its fuel-efficient vehicles, like the all-new Chevrolet Cruze, and robust sales in China, where GM is a market-leader.

Read the full article.

  

Can GM get on track and attract new investors?

Hopes for a really quick buck on GM stock has faded along with a huge sales month in February. Rising gas prices may fuel the General into bringing back big incentives to move those trucks and SUV’s.

From AutoNews.com:

DETROIT (Bloomberg) — The new General Motors made its Wall Street debut with much fanfare last November. The initial public offering that was supposed to max out at about $10 billion ended up raising more than double that amount.

CEO Dan Akerson had a good story to tell: The Detroit automaker had posted a $4.8 billion profit for the nine months ended Sept. 30, and new models like the Chevrolet Equinox and Cadillac SRX SUV were selling well. Two weeks after the IPO, GM was worth just $1.6 billion less than Ford Motor Co., and by mid-January the stock ran up 20 percent, to almost $40 a share, giving GM a value of $59.3 billion.

GM’s feel-good moment didn’t last. Since the beginning of January the stock has fallen more than 18 percent, to close Friday at $30.24 a share, which is $2.76 below its IPO price. GM’s market valuation now trails Ford’s by almost $8 billion. Analysts fret about the churn in GM’s management ranks, the aggressive use of incentives to sell its cars, ongoing losses in Europe, and a softening in the Chinese market, where GM is the leader.

Read the entire article.

  

Gotta Love that Grille!

Whether you’re out shopping for a car or just admiring cars on the road nothing catches ones eye more than a sharp grille. A delicious front end will certainly gain the attention needed to check out the rest of a car! Here are 10 eye catching grille’s from MSN Autos.

No matter how fast, luxurious or brilliantly engineered, a car has to look good if it’s going to sell. And in this game of seduction, the front fascia plays a vital part. An inspired grille design makes a car attractive and shapes its identity by tying it to the carmaker’s history and reputation. For more than a century, designers have wrestled with the daunting challenge of making cars sexy while satisfying the conflicting demands of engineers and regulators. A smooth front end will likely be more aerodynamic and fuel efficient but less charismatic, for instance. Over the years, there have been some amazing successes and spectacular failures in front fascia design. Here are 10 of the most notable.

Check the full article.

  

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