Honda to ax Civic Hybrid, CNG models

Honda will kill off the Civic Hybrid and Civic Natural Gas models at the end of the 2015 model year as part of a massive product overhaul, a top executive said Monday in Detroit.

The moves come in response to consumer preferences as the Japanese automaker prepares to launch the 10th generation of the Civic later this year, said John Mendel, executive vice president, American Honda Motor Co.

“These moves will allow greater focus on Civic’s sporty new driving character,” Mendel said.

Honda revealed the close-to-production Civic concept this spring at the New York auto show and confirmed it will include Si and Type R variants. The powertrain lineup will feature a new turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine, a short-throw six-speed manual, and a continuously variable transmission. The Type-R is expected in 2017, Mendel said. Though the new car marks a return to more athletic Civics, some versions will still get more than 40 miles per gallon in highway driving.

“We’re creating the strongest and most balanced vehicle lineup in our history,” he said.

In addition to tweaking the Civic line, Honda has discontinued the plug-in hybrid Accord to focus on the updated Accord Hybrid, which launches in early 2016. Eventually, the plug-in Accord will be replaced by a new plug-in model in 2018, Mendel said.

The changes come as Honda pivots toward an expanded fuel-cell strategy with a new model set to launch in 2016. The automaker has spent $14 million with California company FirstElement Fuel to set up 12 hydrogen filling stations.

The new Civic is part of an influx of new products set for 2015-2016. The next-gen Ridgeline will arrive in 2016 with a more traditional truck design, Mendel said, admitting the styling of the current generation was divisive.

“Design was polarizing,” he said. “No one wants to have to explain why they bought what they bought.”

The next-generation Odyssey will also launch after the Ridgeline in 2016, Mendel said.

He was also asked about a ‘baby NSX‘ sports car by a reporter in the wake of trademark drawings that leaked last week, though he declined to elaborate.

“No I can’t tell you anything about the baby NSX,” he said. “I mean I could, but I’d probably be fired.”

In other news, Mendel said Honda continues to work with airbag supplier Takata as it grapples with the massive recall and increased attention from the NHTSA. He said the supply of replacement parts is increasing.

“It’s a huge industry problem,” he said. “It has never been just about Honda. There’s a lot going on and it’s changing every day.”

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