Whether in response to criticism against the current Civic, or increased confidence in its operations here, Honda’s US division has been put in charge of development of the refreshed version of the car for next year, as well as the next-generation of the iconic small sedan.
Eric Berkman, president of Honda R&D Americas made the announcement at the Center for Automotive Research Management Briefing Seminars, speaking candidly about the new Civic’s chilly reception by the media and his plans for the future.
“As you know, we introduced an all-new 2012 Honda Civic last year. And while it received some mixed reviews, our customers have made it the best selling compact car in America this year,” said Berkman, admitting that the perception of the car isn’t as good as its sales figures, something that over time could hurt the car long term.
“We all know that second place is the first loser. So, we have some work to do,” he said, cautioning that sales figures aren’t Honda’s top priority. “Our goal is not to be the best-selling… our target is best. That is the expectation of our customers and our fans. And we will continue to refine the current model this fall with both interior and exterior design changes to achieve that highest target.
Touting Honda’s capabilities in the US, Berkman highlighted the fact that 85 percent of the Honda vehicles sold in America are made here, and that a total of 30 percent of the US Honda lineup was developed here.
“Over the past two decades, we have developed more than 20 distinct new models and now we have global leadership of Acura products and light-truck development including models such as the Honda Pilot, Odyssey and Ridgeline and the Acura MDX,” he said.
Admitting that Honda’s US R&D operations might not be as capable as those in Japan, it does have past expertise in developing the Civic. Berkman highlights the 1993 Civic Coupe as an example, not to mention the 2006 Civic Coupe and Si models.
“Already, our North American manufacturing operations have begun taking a larger role within global Honda to evolve toward a lead role in production of key global models here in North America,” he said. “That’s a big deal. But 30 years into making cars in America, I know we are up to that challenge.”