It was hard to tell who generated more screeches and applause during the Honda news conference scheduled a day ahead of the official media preview at this year’s 2016 New York Auto Show, but it was likely the stars more than the cars.
It helped that pop singers Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas each had “designed” customized Hondas for the tour they’ll be sharing over the summer. Lovato’s matte orange and black sedan was one of three Civics on display at the afternoon event which drew equal numbers of journalists and young pop fans snapping iPhone pics.
“I wanted it to look so fast it looked like the black was peeling away,” said Lovato before squatting down to autograph the Civic – which, like Jonas Honda motorcycle will be given to two lucky fans during the annual pop music series the Japanese maker sponsors.
Honda claims more than 4 million people have attended the tour over the past 15 years. What matters more is that it claims to be the best-selling brand among the Millennials expected to become the largest group of U.S. car buyers in the very near future.
The Civic has traditionally scored well with young buyers of previous generations and Honda is intent on maintaining that momentum with the latest version of the compact model. The new Civic made its first debut in thinly disguised concept form just a year ago at the NY Auto Show, the production sedan version following shortly afterwards. Next came the Civic Coupe and show-goers will now get to see the Civic Hatchback unveiled earlier this month at the Geneva Motor Show.
The plan is to roll out more variants of the Civic than ever before in the American market, U.S. brand boss Jeff Conrad telling the crowd Tuesday that the hatchback “continues the progression of sporty models.”
(Click Here for a closer look at the new Honda Civic Hatchback.)
The previous Civic line took some hits from critics who felt it had lost the edgy design and sporty performance characteristics that made it long so popular with young buyers. Honda clearly didn’t want to make that mistake again. All of the various versions of the latest Civic are more edgy in appearance and more sporty in manner.
To underscore that, Conrad noted that all Civic models equipped with a turbocharged engine “will be available with a slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission starting this fall.” That runs counter to industry trends that have seen even such performance stalwarts as Aston Martin abandon the stick.
(Click Here for more on the new Honda Civic Coupe.)
Along with Lovato’s customized Civic sedan and the new Civic Hatchback, Honda also showed off a new rally version that will make its debut this year in the Red Bull Global Rally Cross Series. Street fans will only be able to dream of getting that sort of performance, the race Civic said to make over 600 horsepower and launch from 0 to 60 in “under two seconds,” according to national ad manager Nick Lee.
Honda hopes the combination of music and muscle will help it connect with a generation that has generally shown a lack of interest in automobiles. Indeed, according to a University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute study, only 76.7% of those aged 20 to 24 had bothered to get driver’s licenses in 2014. By comparison, the figure was 91.8% of Baby Boomers of the same age in 1983.
The good news is that the even younger Generation Z is no reaching driving age, and they seem to be more like their Boomer grandparents, 92% of them saying they intend to get a car of their own, while 97% at least want to have a license, according to research released last week by Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book.
(Honda, Mercedes top best cars for family list. Click Here for more.)