Honda (NYSE: HMC) said that its all-new 2018 Accord sedan officially went on sale in the U.S. on Wednesday. The all-new Accord is a major evolution of Honda's mainstay sedan: In some ways, it's more like a German luxury car than like the bread-and-butter Accords of the past.
But it arrives as sales for the entire midsize sedan segment have been shrinking. Is it doomed to decline, or will the rethought Accord be enough to tempt buyers intent on SUVs?What makes the new 2018 Accord so different
In an effort to tempt buyers away from the crossover SUVs that have become so popular, Honda took the Accord in an edgier direction. Hondas have always been thought of as a bit more fun to drive than the equivalent models from rival Toyota (NYSE: TM) , but Accords before this one were still, to some extent, utilitarian.
Particularly in Sport trim, the all-new 2018 Honda Accord's styling isn't subtle. Honda hopes the Accord's new look will entice SUV buyers to come back to sedans. Image source: Honda Motor Co., Ltd.
This one's different. The upright sedan roofline of past Accords has been softened into a lower, sleeker "fastback" shape, with a sloping rear roof strongly reminiscent of coupe-inspired luxury sedans like BMW AG's 6 Series Gran Turismo and Audi's A7. The stylistic luxury-car reference is one part of Honda's effort to differentiate the Accord as a more "upscale" (Honda's word) offering.
Honda took the new Accord's driving experience in a German-ish direction, too. Honda claims the new model has a more rigid structure and a revamped suspension than its predecessor, which together should improve the new Accord's handling and make it quieter inside. As it did on its latest Civic, Honda also boosted the power of the Accord's base engine: It's a 1.5-liter turbo four-cylinder with 192 horsepower, the highest power rating on a base-model Accord ever. A larger 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder with 252 horsepower is optional. A hybrid version will arrive early next year.
The new Accord does away with the optional V-6 engines that were offered in the recent past. But Honda has brought back something else that might tempt sporty-minded (or nostalgic) drivers away from SUVs -- and away from the Accord's rivals: In Sport trim, the new Accord is available with a six-speed manual transmission. (Yes, a real one, with a clutch pedal. How about that?)
That's exactly what it looks like: Honda is offering a six-speed manual transmission as an option in its brand-new 2018 Accord sedan. Honda is betting that stick-shift will help it draw old and new fans to the latest Accord. Image source: Honda Motor Co., Ltd.Why differentiating the Accord from rivals is more important than ever
Things like the roofline and manual transmission might sound silly to non-enthusiasts, but they exist for hard-headed business reasons. The 2018 Accord is arriving at a moment when midsize sedan buyers have more good choices than ever -- but the total pool of midsize sedan buyers is shrinking, as more and more American drivers make the move to SUVs.
Data sources: Monthly U.S. sales reports for each automaker. The vehicles listed are the five top-selling midsize sedans in the U.S. market this year, through September.
Honda isn't the only contender in this class thinking that a sportier, more upscale presentation might win buyers. Toyota didn't go as far as adding a manual transmission to its all-new Camry, but like the Accord, the new 2018 Camry has lower, sleeker styling and an interior with a decidedly sporty take. September was the new Camry's first full month on the market; sales have been strong.
Likewise, while Ford Motor Company's (NYSE: F) Fusion is nearing the end of its current-generation run, Ford added a Sport version last year that combines a hearty 325-horsepower turbo V-6 engine with all-wheel drive. The idea is that it offers some of the flavor of an Audi S6, but for a lot less money.
But the changes raise a question: Given that the trend toward SUVs and away from sedans is looking like a permanent shift, will any of this matter long-term?
From this angle, the 2018 Honda Accord's coupe-like "fastback" roofline is clearly visible. Image source: Honda Motor Co., Ltd.The upshot: This all-new Accord should do just fine
I think the answer to that question is in the chart above: not in the year-over-year declines, but in the total sales numbers -- they're still huge. This is still a very big market segment, and for the five automakers with products in that chart (including Nissan and General Motors), it's very much worth investing in great products that can fight for sales.
When Takahiro Hachigo became Honda's CEO in 2015, he promised a "new Honda" that would "come up with products that carry dreams and satisfy our customers." That wasn't just talk: Like the new-for-2016 Civic, the latest Accord is a sign that Hachigo has successfully refocused Honda on products that stand out and capture attention.
The revamped Civic has been a strong seller in a declining market segment; I expect this new Accord to follow a similar path.
John Rosevear owns shares of Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Ford. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
The facelifted-for-2018 Honda Jazz has been revealed ahead of ordering opening in November 2017. To make its public debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show next month, changes aren’t just limited to a visual upgrade – Honda has introduced a new higher-powered gasoline engine option.Honda Jazz: new vs old
Visually, the new Jazz receives an upgraded face that brings it in line with more recent Hondas such as the latest Civic hatchback. Called ‘Solid Wing Face’, the grille has been revised and there’s a new LED running light pattern in the headlights. Honda’s also sharpened up the front and rear bumpers, and introduced a new color called Skyride Blue.
There’s a new trim line too, called Sport. This brings a sportier look with gloss black 16-inch alloys, a front bumper aero splitter (a bit like that on the racy Honda Civic Type R), triple-strake rear diffuser and neat red pinstriping. It also gets front fog lamps, side skirts and a trunk lid spoiler, plus standard LED headlights.
Inside, the Jazz Sport has unique pinstripe seats, and orange stitching for the leather steering wheel and gearknob. This doesn’t cost any of the Jazz’s famed practicality though: the trunk is still a massive 354 liters with the seats up, the Magic Seat system is standard and you can still fit in loads up to almost 2.5 meters in length.
While the 100-hp 1.3-liter i-VTEC petrol engine is retained for all models,Sport models come with a larger 128 hp 1.5-liter petrol engine. Honda hasn’t yet released performance figures, but it does confirm economy of 52.3 mpg and 124 g/km CO2 emissions. The US version of the Jazz, the Honda Fit, claims 0-60 mph in around 8.5 seconds, so we’d estimate under 9.0 seconds for the EU-standard 0-62 mph run.
Prices for the new Jazz will be confirmed nearer to ordering opening in November: deliveries are scheduled to begin in early 2018.
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