Honda built its name and reputation on cars that thrived during the oil crisis. So why haven't they thrived in the banking crisis? Because they forgot how to make good cars, that's why.
It really hurts me to see how badly the company is doing, especially in the face of what used to be no-name competition from Korean automakers.
Take the Civic 5-door, for example, which is technically a brand new car. But despite that, shifts have just been cut at the factory that makes them because of slow demand. On the other hand, Peugeot, who used to be the laughing stock of the industry, is doing amazingly well with the new 308.
Civic and 308 – both are compact family hatchbacks aimed at the same customers. So why the different results?
Let's look at the engineering first. The lightest Honda compact tips the scales at 1,190 kilograms, while the 308 weighs 1,075 kilograms. That's 115 kg, which by EU standards is equivalent to lugging two small passengers around all day. The Japanese automaker based its compact on the old one, while Peugeot engineered it from a brand new platform with better results. "But Honda's VTEC engines are more powerful, so the car is faster!" you might say, but you'd be wrong there as well.
Styling, interior ergonomics, LED technology – whichever way you look at it, the French have changed more things on their compact to become successful, while the Japanese are paying the price of inaction.
The Jazz subcompact is another great example of bad decisions made on Honda's part. It competes with some of the most popular and handsome cars in Europe, like the Fiesta or the Peugeot 208, and yet it's a total fake.
The Jazz is actually a Japanese market compact car, shoehorned to do a different job than it was engineered for. Yes, it's more spacious than most of its rivals, but prices are high even in Britain, despite it being locally assembled at the Swindon factory. Being engineered overseas, this fake subcompact has been slow to adapt and change. Its design is cool, if you live in 1999, and so are the VTEC engines or the CVT gearbox.
So what do I think about the rest of the Honda range? Well, it's even worse. The CR-Z and Insight will be killed off within a year, the Accord sedan and estate are old. In fact, the only bright spot is the new CR-V, receiving good reviews from the owners I've talked to.
Fat, old, sick and tire of fighting battles it can't win – Honda Europe looks like it needs to be put down. But all it takes is one good idea, one spark of genius and all will be forgiven. So what do you say Honda, are you "all in" or not?