From an Autoextremist.com article:
Honda, Honda PR. An operative from Honda PR (who shall remain nameless) took great umbrage (via an email sent to us last Friday) with our portrayal of Honda's 2003 sales figures (their car sales are down) in last week's "On the Table" column, in which we referred to a cover story in Automotive News on the same subject. He even suggested that we take a Journalism 101 class and that we should "check our facts" about Honda's glowing sales numbers and that we should "take a moment and set the record straight" for our readers.
While we were mulling over just how we'd inform our readers of this communication, John O'Dell, a Staff Writer for the Los Angeles Times, wrote a story this past Monday with the headline "Civic Slump Puts a Dent in Honda's Armor." O'Dell opened his story with the following:
"Superman isn't supposed to catch colds, gamblers aren't supposed to beat the house in Las Vegas and Honda's car sales aren't supposed to slump.
But for the last two years, largely because of the softening popularity of its aging Civic compact sedan, Honda Motor Co.'s passenger car sales in the U.S. have dropped, falling 8.8% since hitting an all-time high in 2001. Last year, sales of the company's Honda and Acura brand passenger cars were off a combined 3.2%, after falling 6.8% in 2002." He then went on to point out that overall Honda sales were actually up 8.2% in 2003, thanks to the Pilot and the MDX, which is what the Honda PR operative was squawking about, but the fact remains that Honda car sales are faltering, and they're even giving dealers between $400 and $800 to help move the sluggish-selling Civic through March.
O'Dell went on to quote ace industry analyst Art Spinella, president of CNW Marketing Research in Bandon, Ore., as saying, "It is getting tougher out there and we fully expect Honda to lose some market share in 2004...everyone's gunning for them."
We thought the "Journalism 101" reference was cute, albeit amazingly unoriginal, but the only record that needs to be set straight here is the fact that Honda and their PR operatives are incapable of facing the music with their sales numbers. This is due, in large part, to the fact that Honda (and Toyota for that matter) has been getting a free ride from the automotive media for years - with the closet Honda zealots among them having perpetuated the idea that the two leading Japanese manufacturers are infallible - with Honda in particular wallowing in high praise seemingly with each new issue of every car publication known to humans (except for us, thankfully - ed.).
So it's no wonder that the well-meaning Honda PR operative would quake in his Dockers (and official Honda-branded polo shirt) with the thought that some media outlets, including us, are no longer willing to take the Honda view of the world, hook, line and sinker as has traditionally been the case. The fact of the matter is that Honda used to be a cool car company, jam-packed with distinctive, march-to-a-different-drummer-type products that bristled with ingenuity and creativity. But lately, Honda has demonstrated that it's no different from any other car company, import or domestic - especially after their dismal performance during the Detroit Auto Show media preview days, when they debuted the new Pilot SUT concept, which was shockingly the most tedious concept masquerading as a "breakthrough" product that was introduced at the show. To say that the Pilot SUT was very "un-Honda-like" would be the understatement of this young year. ...
... That being said, Honda does have some bright spots in their lineup (the S2000 being our clear favorite), but they have their share of dogs, too - starting with the decidedly lackluster Civic and the woefully uncompetitive Civic Si. The real problem for Honda and Honda PR is that all of a sudden the automotive media (and surprisingly, the non-automotive media too) doesn't seem to be so eager to genuflect and leave offerings in front of the Honda altar. ... and Honda finds itself dangling dangerously close to the rest of the pack for the first time. There are several car companies challenging Honda's reputation for engineering creativity and ingenuity, and now Honda is faced with having to remind everyone of their raison d'etre. But wait a minute - isn't it officially named the Honda Motor Company? And hasn't Honda had their asses handed to them in F1, with their motor clearly under performing against its rivals (Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Ford/Jaguar and Renault) for the last five seasons? And haven't they gotten their butts kicked in the Indy Racing League by Toyota and the Cosworth-engineered Chevrolet? Yes and yes. Honda has basically lost its mojo, and they're floundering and flailing around trying to regain their footing. But it's a different automotive world out there now, one not as willing to accept Honda at face value. And when you look deeper at what's going on, Honda seems to be veering awkwardly toward becoming (oh, nooo!) just another car company. We suggested to their PR operative in our response that Honda PR would be better off focusing on transforming Honda's "holier that thou" image into something more relevant in today's hotly competitive market ...- instead of worrying about "setting the record straight" with Autoextremist.com. And frankly, when it comes to PR - they pretty much suck at it, so we won't hold our collective breath waiting for them to get their shit together. In short, Honda has been resting on its laurels for far too long. Instead of creating dominating racing engines and breakthrough products, it's all about Ass-imo robots and "me-too" SUTs. How the mighty have fallen.