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Honda goes on defensive after negative review of Civic

August 05, 2011|By Jerry Hirsch, Los Angeles Times
  • The 2112 Honda Civic, shown at a New York auto show in April, was redesigned to better compete with new entrants in the competitive small-car segment. But Consumer Reports ranked it second to last among 12 small sedans.
The 2112 Honda Civic, shown at a New York auto show in April, was redesigned… (Jennifer Graylock, Associated…)

Honda executives have gone into damage-control mode over a negative review of the automaker's newly redesigned 2012 Civic sedan that appears in the September edition of Consumer Reports.

John Mendel, executive vice president of sales for American Honda Motor Co., sent an email to dealers this week noting that "sometimes you disagree even with those for whom you have the greatest respect.... We fundamentally disagree with their suggestion that Civic doesn't rank among their recommended small cars."

He cited "many other very positive reviews," including one by Motor Trend magazine, which he said "ranked Civic second among eight compact cars in the comparison drive."

Consumer Reports said the new Civic scored second to last in the magazine's ratings of 12 small sedans. It had named earlier-generation Civics as top picks in five of the last 10 years.

The Civic was redesigned to better compete with new entrants in the competitive small-car segment, including the Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra. Honda sold 260,000 of the previous-generation Civic last year, making it the third-bestselling car in America.

Consumer Reports' negative review of the Civic comes at a bad time for Honda. Its U.S. sales plunged 28.4% in July to 80,502 vehicles. And through the first seven months of this year, Honda's share of the U.S. market has fallen to 9.3% from 10.6% in the same period last year.

Part of the decline resulted from supply and production disruptions caused by the Japanese earthquake in March. But Honda also is facing increased competition in the compact and mid-size sedan segments of the auto market, which it has long dominated. South Korean sister companies Hyundai Motor America and Kia Motors America Inc., for example, barely trail Honda with a combined 9.1% of U.S. auto sales. That's up from 7.8% a year ago.

jerry.hirsch@latimes.com

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