LOS ANGELES — Honda remains committed to its core car models in the United States and Canada but can no longer make an economic case for the Fit subcompact, Civic coupe and six-speed manual version of the Accord sedan, all of which are being discontinued after the 2020 model year.
In Canada, the HR-V subcompact crossover and Civic Hatchback have become Honda's “new gateway models” for the brand, Honda Canada said. The Civic hatchback has grown in popularity in Canada and the United States at the expense of the Fit and the Civic coupe, and production of the hatch will move to America from the U.K. next year.
"We are discontinuing one car, but for us the real story is how committed we are to our core car products," said Gary Robinson, assistant vice president of product planning. "We're going to be very much focused on the Civic and the Accord."
Robinson said important changes are coming for Civic — which helped establish the Honda brand in the U.S. during the early 1970s, and the Accord sedan, a perennial top seller since the 1980s — without offering any details. In Canada, the Civic has been the best-selling car for more than two decades.
The Civic will be redesigned for the 2022 model year, and the Accord is due for a midcycle freshening for 2021. Likewise, the HR-V is coming to the end of its life cycle, with the first generation introduced for 2016.
The Fit first came to Canadian and the United States in 2006, with the third-generation model on sale in 2015. The subcompact hatchback joins a growing list of cars discontinued by automakers in recent years. Toyota is dropping the Yaris subcompact after the 2020 model year. Hyundai's Accent is eventually being replaced by the new Venue crossover.
Honda introduced a new-generation Fit last year for the European market, where it's called the Jazz, but did not bring it to North America That turned out to be the writing on the wall for the small car, which was known for its versatile interior, funky exterior styling and relatively fun-to-drive character in the segment.
U.S. sales of the Fit were flat last year at 35,414. In contrast, HR-V demand rose 16 percent to 99,104. Fit sales in Canada fell two per cent to 3,427 units last year while HR-V sales surged 43 per cent to 12,985.
Honda Canada said the HR-V “has experienced substantial organic growth.”
The Civic coupe and the Accord manual were outliers in a market where two-door vehicles and manual transmissions have plummeted in popularity. The coupe accounts for just six per cent of all U.S. Civic sales compared with 16 per cent four years ago, Honda said. The take rate was even less in Canada last, just three per cent. And the Accord with a stick has just a two-per-cent take rate in both countries.
In fact, Honda ended production of the manual Accord in December for the United States and still has enough inventory for the rest of the model year. It ended production for Canada in June 2020. While the Fit lives on in other markets, the Civic coupe is no longer sold outside of North America.
Fit production for North America will end at Honda’s plant in central Mexico, which will expand its output of the HR-V.
While automobile enthusiasts praise automakers who remain committed to car styling and manual transmissions, there simply are not enough buyers to sustain them for most models. The Civic retains its manual transmissions in sedan, hatch, Si sport trim and the track-ready Type R performance variant.
"I get it that there are people who will be disappointed, but I have complete confidence that what we're going to be able to offer people in the marketplace, they're not losing anything," Robinson said.