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Honda Shifting from Cars to Trucks

Maker searching for more “white space” opportunities.

by on May.21, 2015

Honda's 2016 Pilot begins rolling off the company's assembly line in Lincoln, Alabama, today.

Things will be getting busy at the Honda Manufacturing of Alabama plant today – make that busier – as the first of the maker’s new 2016 Pilot SUVs begins rolling down the line.

It’s the third-generation version of the three-row ute that has become not just one of the most popular vehicles in its segment but a symbol of some major changes at the Japanese brand. Long focused on sedans and coupes like the Accord and Civic, Honda is steadily shifting emphasis from passenger cars to sport- and crossover-utility vehicles.

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Already, truck models make up 49% of total U.S. production, noted John Mendel, Honda’s top U.S. executive, “and we could flex that even further,” he said during a teleconference with reporters marking the launch of Pilot production. “That depends on the car market and how much the truck market grows.” (more…)

Lack of Fuel Limits Hyundai Hydrogen Car Sales

Sales could grow as refueling network expands across California.

by on May.20, 2015

The Hyundai fuel cell stack shown in front of the Tucson. The entire package fits under the hood where a gas engine would normally go.

A lack of a hydrogen fueling network is taking its toll on Hyundai’s fuel cell-powered Tucson model, according to the maker’s top U.S. executive.

That has forced the maker to turn away potential buyers who simply don’t live close enough to the handful of hydrogen pumps currently open to the public in Southern California. But Dave Zuchowski, CEO of Hyundai Motor America said the situation should improve over the next few years as a state-funded effort opens more hydrogen fueling stations.

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Hyundai has sold “under 100” of the Tucson FCV models since the fuel-cell vehicle was introduced last summer, said Zuchowski, during a chat with reporters following a drive of two of the maker’s other alternative-power vehicles, the Sonata Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid models.

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First Drive: 2016 Honda Pilot

A minivan by any other name…

by on May.20, 2015

The 2016 Honda Pilot can push up above $40,000 in high-trim models.

What’s in a name, Shakespeare famously asked. He was, of course, referring to a rose. But we might ask the same about the word, minivan. Once one of the most popular body styles on U.S. roads, sales have slumped sharply in recent years as style-conscious buyers have migrated to SUVs and crossovers.

Honda, however, has come up with an interesting solution. Give buyers a minivan and just call it something else. Officially, the 2016 Honda Pilot is a utility vehicle. But for all intents and purposes, it’s a minivan minus the sliding doors.

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First introduced in 2003 and redesigned six years later, the third-generation Honda Pilot is more than just an update. It adopts a much more stylish exterior, an even more lavish interior, and plenty of new safety and creature comfort technologies. What stays the same is Pilot’s focus on providing the sort of comfort, functionality and flexibility that, in years past, would have drawn buyers to conventional minivans, including Honda’s own Odyssey model.

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Another 5 Mil Vehicles Added to Takata Airbag Recall

Honda continues to be hurt by relationship with airbag maker.

by on May.15, 2015

Takata's Hiroshi Shimizu testified before a congressional subcommittee, but the company maintains it doesn't need to expand its recall.

Days after Toyota and Nissan announced the recall of 6.5 million vehicles due to potentially faulty Takata airbags, Honda and Daihatsu have launched new service actions of their own covering yet another 5 million vehicles sold worldwide.

That will bring to about 35 million the total number of vehicles that have been recalled as a result of a problem that can cause airbags to inflate over-aggressively in a crash, sending shrapnel flying into the passenger compartment. The problem has so far been linked to a half-dozen deaths, most of them in the United States.

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As part of the latest announcements, Honda will inspect and, if necessary, replace airbags in 4.89 million vehicles sold around the world. Honda, which has a financial relationship with Takata as part of its keiretsu, or closely linked supplier network, has had the largest number of vehicles impacted by the airbag problem. (more…)

Toyota, Nissan Recall Another 6.5 Mil Vehicles for Faulty Airbags

Total Takata recalls now approaching 30 mil worldwide.

by on May.13, 2015

A Takata airbag after a crash.

Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co., Japan’s two largest automakers, have announced another major recall to fix potentially faulty Takata airbags, a move affecting a total of 6.5 million vehicles, about 1 million of them sold in the U.S.

All told, nearly 30 million vehicles have been recalled as a result of the problem, which can cause airbags to inflate over-aggressively in a crash, sending shrapnel flying into the passenger compartment. The problem has so far been linked to a half-dozen deaths, most of them in the United States.

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The latest actions may not spell the end of the Takata problem, however, as some safety advocates are calling for the recall of as many as 30 million vehicles equipped with suspect Takata airbags in the U.S. alone. (more…)

First Drive: 2015 Honda CR-V

Mid-cycle makeover keeps crossover ahead of pack.

by on May.13, 2015

Honda's CR-V was redesigned for the 2015 model year and captured Motor Trend's SUV of the Year.

Sales of compact crossover vehicles are going like gangbusters while standing a large element of the conventional wisdom about what appeals to American car buyers on its head.

After all, small crossovers, basically a utility vehicle built a passenger-car chassis, have five doors. Until recently, the convention was that Americans didn’t want five doors or they didn’t until recently. Crossovers are also smaller than a conventional sport utility vehicle and run counter to the conviction that American’s don’t like small vehicles.

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To some, they also call to mind the hatchbacks from the 1970s – vehicles long ago consigned to dark and forgotten closets in car design studios all over the western world. (more…)

First Drive: 2016 Honda HR-V

Honda delivers some big things in its small CUV package.

by on Apr.30, 2015

The 2016 Honda HR-V shares the basic architecture first introduced on the Fit hatchback.

Small, smaller, smallest. Like a growing number of its competitors, Honda has been both refreshing and fleshing out its utility vehicle line-up. And even as it prepares to launch an updated version of its biggest model, the Pilot, it’s entering an all-new segment with the pint-sized 2016 Honda HR-V.

What was once a modest niche is rapidly becoming one of the market’s hottest segments with new offerings such as the Chevrolet Trax, Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X joining earlier entries like the Nissan Juke and Kia Soul. Honda, however, has big plans for the smallest of its utility vehicles, hoping to dominate the market much as it has with bigger offerings like the Pilot and mid-range CR-V.

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Sharing the same Mexican assembly line as the familiar Honda Fit, the 2016 HR-V also shares the same underlying platform as that latest-generation minicar. That’s good news for those who believe that good things come in small packages, yielding a flexible and roomy interior that will surprise those who expected a cramped interior with little space for either passengers or cargo.

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Recalls Hammer Honda Earnings

Japanese maker’s net income tumbles 43%.

by on Apr.29, 2015

A Takata airbag after a crash.

The recall crisis that reached record levels last year has continued to hammer the auto industry, as Honda shows with the release of its weak, January-to-March earnings report.

The recall of vehicles equipped with potentially faulty Takata airbags led to a 43% year-over-year decline in the maker’s bottom line for the fourth quarter of its fiscal year. At $814 million, or 45 cents per share, the net income was well short of the market forecast of 59 cents a share, according to Zacks Consensus Estimate.

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But Honda laid out a more upbeat forecast for the year ahead, projecting a nearly 10% increase in revenues and a more modest 0.4% increase in net income for the 2016 fiscal year.

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Honda Offers Closer Look at 2016 Pilot

Maker promises “beauty, brains and brawn.”

by on Apr.10, 2015

The 2016 Honda Pilot.

When Honda revealed the new 2016 Pilot at the Chicago Auto Show it promised a “dramatic shift,” and backed that up with a new, more modern design. But what was under the skin? Well, the automaker is finally ready to reveal more of the details as the three-row SUV finally gets ready to roll into showrooms.

The Honda Pilot, the maker boasts, packs in “beauty, brains and brawn.” We’ve already gotten a look at the new design, so, as for the rest, the 2016 remake is powered by a 280-horsepower V-6 and delivers power to the pavement through a new Intelligent Traction Management system that allows a motorist to instantly optimize a variety of vehicle settings for the road conditions they’re facing, whether dry pavement or snow and ice.

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The new crossover also gets some major updates to its digital infotainment and safety systems which offer features such as Forward Collision Warning and Collision Brake Mitigation.

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Honda Kills Unloved Crosstour

Maker moves Accord hybrid line back to Japan.

by on Apr.09, 2015

Honda's Crosstour is getting the ziggy in favor of the new HR-V. Production at the maker's East Liberty, Ohio, plant will end this Spring.

Honda is killing off the Crosstour version of its Accord line, a model so unpopular most motorists thought it was gone already. The death of the hatch version does have a plus side for Honda which can now squeeze out more of its hot-selling models at its plant in East Liberty, Ohio.

John Mendel, executive vice president, American Honda Co., said the company is also moving production of the Accord Hybrid from the Marysville (Ohio) Auto Plant to the Sayama Plant in Japan. The Crosstour was one of the rare recent missteps by Honda, which has some of the hottest selling products in America, including the sedan version of the Accord.

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“This move will allow the East Liberty Plant to focus on meeting demand for the CR-V and a refreshed 2016 Acura RDX and, as announced last month, expand light truck production in early 2017 with the Acura MDX,” Mendel said in a statement. (more…)