Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Honda wraps off 2012 Civic, small car battle heats up
American HondaHonda launches the concept version of its 2012 Civic. The final version of the car will be on sale later this year.
DETROIT, Mich. -- Honda took the wraps off of its 2012 Civic Monday, a car that goes on sale within a few months.
Arguably the most important product launch at this year's auto show in Detroit, the Civic is set to be a major competitor against General Motors' Lordstown-built Chevrolet Cruze, Hyundai's 2011 Elantra compact and Ford's upcoming 2012 Focus sedan.
"Styling a vehicle like Civic, with a 40-year history of staying ahead of the times, is a challenge," American Honda Vice President John Mendel said.
Like the Focus and Cruze, the new Civic looks a bit more mature than the model it replaces. The sharp wedge-shaped design is gone, in favore of a more sculpted shape.
Mendel said each Civic model, the company has several variants, will be more fuel-efficient than the models they replace. The gasoline version will get 40 miles per gallon, he said. Honda will also launch natural gas and hybrid-electric models.
All versions of the vehicle will come with the EcoAssist feature, a specialized dashboard that warns drivers when they are wasting fuel by driving too aggressively.
In addition to providing competition for the Lordstown vehicle, the new Civic has strong Ohio ties. Honda plans to make the car in Indiana and Canada, but its engines and transmissions come from plants in Ohio.
Ford Motor Co. sales analyst George Pipas said the new competitors should draw a lot of attention to compact cars, but even without those new vehicles, 2011 would have been exciting in the compact space.
Compact cars tend to be most popular with drivers under 30 years old, Pipas said. And unemployment is significantly higher among that age group than older people. If the job market improves at all, Pipas said the 18-30 age group could see a dramatic increase in disposable spending capacity.
Add to that rising gas prices and compact cars could be facing dramatic increases this year, Pipas said.
"There are so many factors all coming together for this class," Pipas said.