DETROIT – Honda is discontinuing several green models in anticipation of a forthcoming generation of new ones.
The natural-gas variant of the Civic compact is ending with the current generation of the compact car, as is the hybrid version. A new 10th-generation Civic is due this fall, with a sportier focus.
“For any amount of inconvenience, customers aren’t willing to compromise. They want the freedom,” John Mendel, executive vice president-American Honda, tells media here of a key reason for scrapping the Civic Natural Gas, formerly called the Civic GX.
Honda has been “plugging away” at the natural-gas noncommercial vehicle market since 1998, Mendel notes. But despite the automaker’s best attempts to build a good, wide-ranging infrastructure of compressed-natural-gas refueling stations, it wasn’t enough to sway consumers.
“Since 1998, we gave it a pretty long run and tried and tried and tried. I’ve often joked if customers could have filled up their (barbecue grills) at the same time, we probably would have had a bigger uptake, because it would have been more convenient,” he says.
The Civic Natural Gas is the only non-commercial CNG model sold in the U.S., WardsAuto data shows. General Motors’ Chevy earlier discontinued a CNG version of the Impala.
The Civic Hybrid’s discontinuation is due to the fact “many derivative hybrids are struggling for sales in the marketplace,” he says.
Honda has sold only 1,873 Civic Hybrids through May of this year and 5,070 last year, WardsAuto data shows, well below the record 32,575 delivered in 2007.
The current-gen Civic Natural Gas model, on sale since 2010, had its best year in 2013, with 2,198 sales. Deliveries through May stood at 192.
Meanwhile, the low-volume Accord plug-in hybrid sedan, on sale since 2013, also is being dropped.
Honda is refreshing the Accord this year, and does not want to redesign the existing PHEV as it is preparing a new, unnamed PHEV to debut by 2018.
The automaker sold just 55 Accord PHEVs through May, down 63.8% from 152 in the same period year-ago.
Honda is preparing a new battery-electric vehicle by 2018, as well as planning for the launch of its next-generation hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle next year.
The automaker has had little success in eco-friendly models vs. its longtime Japanese rival Toyota, known for its successful Prius hybrid car. But, Mendel is hopeful, vowing the next generation of Honda’s green vehicles will be a “mainstream volume pillar for the Honda brand.”