The lifespan of an average car-model usually lasts a half-decade before the automaker shells out for a full redesign, unless it’s a Nissan Frontier or Lincoln Navigator. That’s more or less the rule at Honda when it comes to the top-selling compact car in North America, the Civic.
While the eighth-generation Civic soldiered on for a lengthy six years, Honda sold the preceding seventh, sixth, fifth, and fourth versions of the model for either four or five years. Thanks to a boring design and lackluster reviews, the automaker spirited the ninth-gen model off of dealer lots after just four years, but not before adding extra content and style via an emergency 2013 model year refresh.
We’re now hearing the current generation — larger than ever before, radically redesigned for 2016, and a sales leader in a shrinking segment — won’t see a full redesign until the 2022 model year. That’s a six-year stretch. A stretch where automakers will be scrambling to hold on to compact-car market share in a land flush with small crossovers.
The production information, provided by a source with knowledge of assembly plans at the Civic’s Alliston, Ontario, assembly plant, suggests Honda isn’t too worried about staying fresh. Despite the segment’s decline, Honda’s sitting pretty.
Two years after the 10th-generation model showed up, the Civic handily outsells its second-place challenger, the Toyota Corolla. Its July sales rose 11 percent in the U.S., year-over-year, though sales have dropped 5 percent since the start of 2017. The overall segment shrank 5 percent this year.
James Jenkins, American Honda’s public relations manager, wouldn’t comment on the company’s future products. “The 16MY Civic has been very successful for us, and we’ll always look for way to make the car better,” he told TTAC.
Benefitting the Civic is a two-year-long rollout of new variants. Launching first with a sedan, the Civic lineup added a coupe and hatchback variant, as well as a hotter Si model and the scorching Type R model that began arriving from the U.K. this summer. Variety is the spice of life, but it also bolsters sales figures and focuses attention on a car model.
Honda’s well-received 10th-gen model gives it an advantage, even in a shrinking segment. As other players pull out (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) and others lose interest in staying competitive (Ford’s Focus, due for a date with Chinese production), major players like Honda and Toyota stand to pick up more market share. It helps Honda that the current-generation Chevrolet Cruze and Hyundai Elantra haven’t caught on as well as their predecessors.
So, if the next-generation Civic truly isn’t arriving until 2022, it simply needs to stage a visual and technological repeat of 2016 — not 2012 — to keep that large slice of compact car buyers interested.