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Honda Civic Is USA's Best Selling Compact Car, Breaks Sales Record

In the land of all things super-sized, the Honda Civic competes in a segment which the Americans refer to as ‘compact.’ US car companies have reported their sales figures for the month of June and critics of the Civics are not going to like this post.

Far from falling from its grace, the Civic has overtaken the Toyota Corolla as the segment’s best selling model, a title that the Civic has held since April this year.

In the month of June alone, Honda sold 27,500 units of Civics, three percent more than the second placed Toyota Corolla. Compared to the same month last year, sales for the Civic rose 57 percent.

In the six months cumulative sales for 2012 table, the Honda Civic leads the ranking with 162,58 units sold to date, well ahead of the second place Toyota Corolla (151,726 units).

While the new Civic maybe the least popular among car enthusiasts, it is on its way to become the most successful Civic of all time. The Civic’s June 2012 sales figures broke its previous monthly sales record of 20,723 units registered in May 2008.

The result is what Honda had in mind in designing the new ninth generation Civic, to move away from the boy racers, make it less edgy and more appealing to a wider group of buyers, the same formula that Toyota perfected so well for its ‘boring’ Corolla.

In doing so, the backlash from motoring press, who may sometimes be out of touch with the requirements of actual buyers and evaluate cars on a very different set of criteria, and criticism from vocal car enthusiasts is to be expected.

While it alienated traditional Honda fans, the gamble is that actual car buyers, people who get off their keyboards and actually put their money down for a car will hook on to the new Civic’s more grown up character. It was a gamble that is paying off very well for Honda.


In the past, the best selling passenger cars (including MPVs, SUVs but not pick-up trucks) in the US is a contest between the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima.

The Civic is turning the hierarchy upside down, with the smaller Civic overtaking the Honda Accord and Nissan Altima to become the second best selling passenger car in the US.

It’s also an indicator of the growing downsizing trend in many developed markets. To be fair, there is also a factor of both the Accord and Altima are ageing models due for replacement. The new Altima just went on sale in June this year. A new generation Accord is expected to debut later this year.

The Civics interior was widely panned, especially by bloggers and the American media, but as the numbers show, the whole issue about interior plastics is not as important as American motoring journalists and trigger happy bloggers making rash conclusions with no experience in the car make it out to be.

Unlike European buyers, American consumers don’t put that much importance on vehicle interior trim material.

It’s the same in Japan. The best selling car in Japan is a Toyota Aqua (Prius c), and we all know how spartan is the Prius c’s interior.

Over in Malaysia, waiting period for the Prius c is close to six months, and the only reason the ‘cheap plastics-ville’ finished interior Prius c lost out to the Jazz Hybrid on the Malaysian sales charts was because Toyota couldn’t make them fast enough to fulfill its order bank. The best selling entry level luxury sedan, the BMW 3-series is far from being the byword in interior quality compared to its other German brethren. So is the interior really that important for Malaysians in general? It will be an interesting study.

In short, the Civic is a strong performer, even in the second largest car market in the world. It survived repeated crucifixion by certain factions in the motoring media and came out even stronger than before, as if negative motoring reviews don’t make any difference.

The Civic is not as bad as Internet forums and blogs make it out to be, but neither is it the best in its segment anymore. That we can agree.

However, as one auto industry executive told me, it is not that the Civic has regressed, but that other competing models have progressed a lot. The ninth generation Civic will still be good enough to hold on to its lead, but just good enough.

There is a danger that this will be the last Civic for its buyers. There are some very capable alternatives from Kia, Hyundai and VW on the market.

Five years ago, a Volkswagen model won’t even register in the top-10 in the US compact car market, while Hyundai can only go stronger.

The ninth generation Civic will be launching in Malaysia this week. Stay tuned.

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  1. Somebody has to eat the humble pie. So much for these so called ‘expert’ reviewers.

  2. There is a danger that this will be the last Civic for its buyers. There are some very capable alternatives from Kia, Hyundai and VW on the market.

    Emphasis added.

    Car market is finally getting more competitive even in Malaysia. If Honda and Toyota is still charging premium prices for their basic bare-boned cars, they will be the one eating humble pies instead.

    Just wondering though, why so many articles by CBT promoting this Honda Civic 9th Gen despite claims of neutral standing? Looks very suspicious.

    • Well, compared to other websites, we can tell you that Honda has never advertised with us. Even in our newspaper and magazines, flip through them and you won’t find a Honda ad.

      The motivation for us is because it is all too easy to join other second rate writers in bashing the new Civic. We refused to take that easy path to write what people want to hear, without objective reasoning.

      To go against that the general flow is more difficult. But as the numbers coming in have shown, our initial conclusion on the Civic was correct, even though many readers are unhappy with it, simply because many find it easier to go along with what everyone else is saying. One second rate blogger even claimed that Malaysian writers don’t follow the ‘global opinion,’ when his definition of global is actually US only.

      However many readers think US journalists are better, and we who speak things that goes against common opinion are heavily criticized. As the numbers have shown, what the US writers say is a complete opposite of the market reaction. Something is clearly wrong with the journalist when their test drive conclusion is such a big massive contrast with the market reaction, we are talking record breaking sales here.

      People are very willing to buy any story coming out of US. The issue with US publications is that there is a very ‘unholy alliance’ between car companies, PR agencies and publications. It is common for US journos to be lavished with many perks that we can only dream off, like a free car for the entire year, paid vacation for their families, etc etc.

      • jesus christ u are u saying car manufacturers bribed journalists over there? thats borderline defamation suit or perhaps jail term mate. u dont want to do that.

        advertisments dont really reflect how automotive news work. they will work like a condom. enough to have fun but at the same time being safe. let me tell u things u already know. if u go around bashing one car manufacturer product, the most likely to happen not only here but all around the world – perks or not perks, vacation or no vacation – is u will not get invite for product launching. or official test driving. that will for sure effect your credibility and of course very bad for your networking. then the rating goes down and your editor will banging the door asking for your head.

        so its not about advertisment. and its not about u being in the middle or not bias or whatever. it just people do what they do or they do things that good for them. the proof i got is the line about ‘The Civic is not as bad as Internet forums and blogs make it out to be, but neither is it the best in its segment anymore. That we can agree’ is what i termed as condom line. the other is ‘However, as one auto industry executive told me, it is not that the Civic has regressed, but that other competing models have progressed a lot’ , and tell me what the hell is going on with that?

        if others move for better A LOT and the civic – going by what u wrote – move forward NOT ALOT, then what exactly is going on?

        • Well if you choose to see things that way, that is your opinion, although I think it is rather naive. Still, we can agree to disagree.

          Anyway, those are not my comments. Those are the comments of media industry watchdog AJR, http://www.ajr.org/Article.asp?id=5141. It sums up why American media is not as black/white as many locals like to believe. It’s very much about who is dishing out more perks to put down what competing brand.

          Why is that surprising? Every media, even alternative media, has their own agenda. Like you said it yourself, they do what they do or do things that are good for them. That’s why mature readers gather multiple views and form their own conclusions.

          It is fine that you think the Civic is not as good, nothing wrong with that. It is an opinion. You have yours and others have theirs. Personally, I believe in numbers. They are objective and have no allegiance to any view.

          True others have moved on a lot. But who are motoring writers writing for? For themselves, judged by their own narrow set of criteria or for the people who are really looking to buy a car and are looking for a good guide?

          Now that the numbers are out, where are the American media that was so vocal about how bad the car was? Where is the support for their conclusion?

          Like I said, something is clearly wrong when factions within the motoring press criticize so heavily a car that real car buyers love so much. Are these publications writing for their own entertainment or for actual car buyers?

          • personally i dont have anything not good about that car. in fact i am one of the many people eagerly waiting for the pricing about to be disclose officially this noon.

            it just your journalism part that irritates me. banging on about people cant differentiate this that blah blah blah. yes those people may have bad stuffs on the car but it never is your right to directly/indirectly say back to those people. all u can do is to try to picture your wisdom in the writings and thats about it.

            and thank you so much about confirming the part people do what they want – quote and unquote – every media has its own agenda. which is great but it is a confirmation that sometimes journalism is skewed. the only way forward is smart consumerism and that doesnt come from reading the news – in this case anything coming from cbt? well thats kinda hard but i am pretty sure cbt will rectify this problem of skewed journalism.

            anyway we wish the best for NST and of course CBT, like we always do since for the past 30 years.

  3. I agreed with Admin.

    I am a close follower of car reviews and always read through reviews by big name magazine like Motor Trend, Road&Track, Consumer Report, etc. Most of them have bashed Civic for being too plain and no improvement from previous generation. However, like Admin mentioned, the standard of testing by them is different from what the daily consumer experienced. In the US, mosf of the road are highway and how often normal people get to drive the car on a test track? Consumer’s need is to get from Point A to Point B. Also, the standard of compact cars have been raised as other name brands have added more content previously not seen in compact car, such as MS Sync in focus and rear passenger cooling seat, etc. These features are only available in luxury cars 10 years ago. But the, are these cool features really what consumer wants? If you read consumer report, they have complained the Ford Sync system being too complicated.

    On the Civic, I think this is how their engineering works. Gen 8 and 9th look similiar, Gen 6 & 7 also look familiar. It looks like Honda loves to milk to the same design for 2 generation before coming out with completely different setup. This trend has been going on if you look at all generations of Civics.

    As you look at the sales chart, the top compact car sold in the US are Civic and Corolla and I don’t think both cars can be considered sporty looking compared to Focus or Elantra. However, bear in mind that the people who buy these cars are looking for value, reliability, not too offensive, not necessary wanting to test the cornering ability or what 1/4 mile time it can achieved.

    On car review, I think these big name magazines have gone down hill and irrelevant to what the normal population wants. I think the true review that you can see is either from thetruthaboutcars.com (ttac.com) or Jalopnik.com. These website offer non-biased review that do not follow the flow of generation population. Kudos to cbt.com writer for not following the flow of other magazine. Sometimes the moon in western countries is not necessary rounder and this is the perception that Asian need to change.

  4. I agree with Admin. The criticisms being hauled at this 9th gen Civic in a way is a reflection of the high expectations which car enthusiasts & Honda fans had on this new Civic & could be viewed as a compliment. This high expectations are primarily attributable to the huge success which the 8th gen. Civic had achieved & Honda probably need a generation gap before it can design another ground breaking, revolutionary 10th gen Civic.

    I own a 8th gen Civic & when I first saw the pictures of this 9th gen Civic, I also felt dissappointed but after having looking at it repeatedly as its launch approaches, I feel more acceptable towards its look. I heard that its handling & sound proofing has improved a lot & thus should enable it to maintain its leadership in its segment.

    For those who sing the praises of Kia & Hyundai, well you never seen those chorus being converted into hard figures. I still hear that reliability is still a major doubt for Korean engines & parts. On HP & torque numbers of Korean engines, I read that those figures will never be achieved no matter how hard you flat the pedal. Finally, its resale value is still significantly lower than the Japs.

  5. If the Civic is only selling at RM70K like in US, I think nobody would be as critical. But now price are increasing at an alarming rate for these Japanese make in Malaysia (Camry 2012 another example), so people are starting to question what makes these cars so special to deserve such a huge price hike?

    If fully imported Korean cars and even continental cars with much better specification and materials can sell their cars cheaper, I’m just confused on what basis is the Japanese brands going the other way and increase their price further?

    There’s talks that the Civic 2.0 will be priced close to RM140K, I repeat RM140K! It cost double than what’s selling in USA. Despite the taxes levied, one has to wonder how much is Honda Malaysia profiteering from this?

    Even our neighbor up north are getting their Civic starting from RM70K++ but our basic Civic 1.8 is priced close to RM120K. Blame it on the government? Sure. Is the car value for money? Definitely not!

  6. What no one here is mentioning is how much Honda is incentivizing the Civic to recapture market share that was lost in 2011. Honda dealers were offering almost unheard of deals along with ultra low interest rates to move the metal. I bought a 2012 Civic EX sedan back in January for $18,338 (msrp was $21,275 at the time). Plus I got 1.9% apr for 60 months. Honda does not do direct rebates to the customer but they’ve been doing huge manufacturer to dealer incentives. So the 2012 Civic is not exactly moving off the lots based on its own merits but by great deals being made.

    Erik Berkman is now in charge of Honda R & D. He was in charge of Honda Performance Development. Erik is in charge of bringing back that famous Honda mojo. Erik is also instrumental in the 2013 Civic refresh coming out this fall. The big focus of this refresh is on the interior materials. As Erik recently said this will eliminate one more criticism. I firmly believe the scathing review by Consumer Reports last summer really woke Honda up. For the Civic to not even be recommended came as a complete shock to Honda corporate in Japan and American Honda corporate in Torrance. The head of Honda of America stated that the drivability of the 2013 Civic has also been improved upon.

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