A new generation of the Ohio-made Honda Accord has gone on sale, boosted by glowing reviews but facing some tough competition.
The 2013 Accord gets better fuel economy than its predecessor and comes with a host of new standard safety features. After decades of bulking up, this version has a slightly smaller body than the model it replaces. The price ranges from $21,680 to $33,430, a slight increase from before.
For Honda, which assembles the Accord in Marysville, this rollout is the key moment in a comeback year. The automaker is bouncing back from the turmoil caused by natural disasters in Asia, which led to disappointing sales in 2011.
“The Accord is very strong, and personally I would consider it near the top of the class,” said Erin Riches, a senior editor for Edmunds.com who road-tested the new model.
A few years ago, it was a foregone conclusion that the Accord would rank first or second in the midsize-sedan class, she said. The Toyota Camry and the Accord were often the top sellers and among the best-reviewed.
Since then, several other automakers have improved their rival vehicles, making the segment among the most competitive in the industry. In addition to the Camry and Accord, the top players include the Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata and Chevrolet Malibu.
Honda has said its goal is to sell 350,000 Accords a year in the United States. That is a realistic target, considering that annual sales of the Accord topped 400,000 from 1998 through 2001 and exceeded 350,000 from 2002 through 2008.
Last year, sales sank to 235,625, the fewest since the 1980s, largely because of availability problems caused by parts shortages stemming from Japan’s earthquake and tsunami and Thailand’s floods.
Honda began mass production of the 2013 model last month at its plant in Marysville. The company employs about 13,500 people in Ohio.
“There is no mistaking the importance of the all-new 2013 Accord,” said Hidenobu Iwata, president and CEO of Honda of America Manufacturing, speaking last month.
The new Accord is available as a four-door sedan and a two-door coupe. A plug-in hybrid version will go on sale next year.
Jim Erwin, new car sales manager at Roush Honda in Westerville, Ohio, said some of the model’s best attributes are apparent contradictions, made possible by advances in engineering.
“It’s smaller on the outside, but has more interior space,” Erwin said. “It has a larger engine, but better fuel economy.”
Mike Omotoso, senior manager of global powertrain for LMC Automotive in Detroit, liked what he saw when he drove the coupe and a preliminary version of the plug-in. His research firm does forecasting for clients in the auto industry. “The biggest change is more emphasis on safety features,” he said.
Those features include a standard rearview camera. Some trim levels include a system that alerts a driver who gets too close to the vehicle in front or drifts into the next lane.
Assessing the plug-in version, Omotoso was impressed with a transmission that makes a seamless switch from battery power to the gasoline engine.
One of the most-influential media outlets, Consumer Reports, used this headline for its initial review: “The 2013 Honda Accord impresses on our first drive.”
This is the same magazine that panned Honda’s 2010 redesign of the Civic, contributing to a tepid response for that vehicle. Although the Civic was “lackluster,” the Accord “should certainly hold its own in both the marketplace and, barring unforeseen surprises, in our ratings,” said the review on Consumer Reports’ website.