The Honda Civic has always been on a four-year development cycle; each of the six previous generations has come out every four years. The Civic Mk 7 moved to a five year cycle, which still beat most competing models. That was the plan for the current model, even though the Mk 8’s styling still beats its rivals, including the Toyota Corolla and Nissan Sentra and the soon to be replaced Chevy Cobalt and Ford Focus. Honda reports now, however, that the Civic will be on a six year cycle, with the next model due in 2012.
There is some speculation that a last minute change to the Civic’s overall length is the reason for the delay, but this is not a likely cause, since bumper fascias are an early part of model design and cannot be easily changed late in the process. It could also be that an extra year of engineering is needed to ensure that the new Civic meets stricter U.S. safety crash test standards.
A more likely reason is that the philosophy at Honda has changed as a result of the state of the current world economy and global auto market.
Cycles change depending on a wide variety of factors; the Toyota Corolla has stayed on a six-year cycle for a few generations and the current model was delayed to the 2009 model year due to a need for more time for designers to respond to the ’06 Honda Civic’s “radical” design. The upper body was changed at the last minute, but Toyota did not change the length of the vehicle. Honda’s new marketing-based philosophy prompted the movement of the Civic to a six-year cycle, but the original plan was to begin that following the launch of the 2011 Civic.
The concern with delaying the release of a new Civic is simply that the car has always been the definitive symbol of the Honda brand in the U.S. If a new model is delayed, competing automakers including Ford and GM could easily introduce new compacts, which they predict will be replacing sedans as the primary car segment in the U.S. The new Hyundai Elantra and the Kia Forte may also prove to be stiff competition for Honda.
The general consensus is that the new 2012 Civic needs to be a truly spectacular design with cutting-edge engineering and styling in order to hold its own in what is proving to be a highly competitive segment.
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