Honda Responding to Criticism of Current Civic

The tepid response to this year’s redesign of the Civic has caused Honda Motor Company to make additional mid-cycle changes soon than planned.

Consumers were especially critical of the cheap, hard plastic center console and instrument panel found in the current design, which launched last April. And it wasn’t just consumers who found fault with the Civic. Consumer Reports characterized the remodel as “cheap” and “insubstantial” and removed the Civic from its list of “recommended” vehicles. In a recent article, The Wall Street Journal was no kinder; calling the redesign “a betrayal.”

In a recent interview, American Honda executive vice president John Mendel said, “We take feedback seriously, regardless of who it’s from, and we will act accordingly quickly.” He said a mid-cycle update could occur next year.

The global economic meltdown of 2009 prompted Honda Motor Company’s CEO Takanobu to shorten the Civic’s wheelbase and opt for more economical materials in order to appeal to more budget-conscious buyers.

Speaking at a media event for the redesigned 2012 CR-V, Mendel conceded, “I don’t know how much we can do, and how quickly, but the comments of Consumer Reports and our customers have not gone unnoticed. We are appropriately energized.”

According to the research firm Compete Automotive, consumers were initially curious about the current Civic. The Civic was the most shopped model last June but in recent months, consumers have turned their attention to other offerings from other automakers, especially Ford, Hyundai and Chevrolet.

Compete attributes the negative review by Consumer Reports for much of the diminished interest in the Civic.

Mendel said Honda has ramped up its North American production in anticipation of a surge in demand in 2012. Mendel said, “You are seeing us building capacity back in, then remixing [production] based on the market. We’re not increasing production of any vehicle per se, but a multitude of different vehicles, then letting the market decide.” He predicts American Honda will see sales of more than 1.2 million units next year.

The March 11 earthquake and tsunami resulted in a reduction of 200,000 units in Honda’s U.S. inventory. But Mendel said production is roaring back. Last week, he said, Honda added an additional 100,000 units of annual capacity at its Civic assembly plant in Greenburg, Indiana.

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