You may recall Honda’s 2012 Civic comprehensively hammered last year by Consumer Reports. The publication's verdict was such a big blow that Honda decided to speed-up its next redesign and its CEO took responsibility for its poor performance.
One would expect its sales to slump; but instead, they have gotten through the roof. Civic deliveries have increased this year by 40 percent through September, to 234,029 units and Honda’s compact car is on course to regain the segment crown in the U.S. after finishing third last year behind the Toyota Corolla and Chevrolet Cruze.
Here’s what CR said, among other things, at the time: "The Civic has slid backward with its redesign. It feels insubstantial against recently redesigned competition. Vague steering weakens its agility and robs it of its fun-to-drive feel. Stopping distances are long, the ride is choppy, and road noise is pronounced.”
So why is Honda's compact currently the sixth best-selling vehicle in the States?
Kelly Blue Book’s analyst Alec Gutierrez has an explanation for this phenomenon: “The overall competitive set from all manufacturers has become so good that, for some of us so-called experts in the industry, perhaps our expectations have gotten impossible to reach.”
Another example is VW’s revamped Passat, which in 2011 also lost its “recommended” tag from Consumer Reports.
“The last-generation Passat was a better car overall, with agile handling” and a “well-finished interior,” Consumer Reports said in a Dec. 28 post on its website. “But a high price and so-so reliability, plus a lack of marketing, kept it off the radar for many buyers.”
According to Autodata Group, though, the new model’s sales have increased from a paltry 4,893 units in 2011 to 83,662 this year through September, with VW announcing that it has surpassed its previous annual record in the first nine months of 2012.
Perhaps, after all, experts’ verdicts are outweighed by other factors such as pricing and marketing. Gutierrez concedes that this might be the case but we must consider other things, too, such as brand loyalty and perceptions of quality, which don’t change overnight.
By Andrew TsaousisStory References: Businessweek