Honda needs its just unveiled 2013 Accord to be a big hit in the U.S. market and elsewhere. And sure enough, early views of the completely overhauled Accord promise a car with a sleeker design, more interior space yet a smaller exterior footprint, better mileage including a plug-in hybrid version, the latest technological amenities and even an improved interior.
It's not that Honda needs Accord to be a game-changer with the American consumer. The company's U.S. sales are recovering nicely these days from last year's woes: Overall sales in July were up by 45 percent. And Accord sales were up by 70 percent even though the current model is at the end of its lifecycle.
But Honda does need to make sure that the next Accord doesn't screw up a good thing: its ranking as one of the best-selling cars in America for many years and a leader in the fiercely competed mid-size sedan market. Arguably, Honda already misfired, last year, with its other most important nameplate, the compact Civic, whose new version is still getting panned by influential critics such as Consumer Reports.
The competition is getting even stiffer in Accord's segment. Nissan's Altima is one rising player. Hyundai's Sonata and Kia's Optima have become vibrant entries in the last few years. Chevrolet is reworking its Malibu this year. Toyota's Camry is still America's best-selling car. And Ford is hoping for big things out of its new 2013 Fusion.
The new Fusion underscores perhaps the most important aspect of the new Accord as well: It has to look good. Styling is returning more to prominence in the U.S. industry, even in a previously mundane segment like mid-size cars. And Ford is hoping that the sleek new design of Fusion alone will make it a more competitive entry.
Honda promises its own styling advance with Accord as it releases th first images of the production version of the new sedan and coupe. The windshield glass is nearly flush, for instance, and side flanking is said by some critics to resemble a BMW look. Honda itself calls the car "the most sculpted and dynamic Accord ever."
But wait, there's more! The new Accord also will feature a new, more fuel-economic engine family and offers a continuously variable transmission for more fuel savings.
And inside, Honda promises, there won't be a repeat of what many identify as the biggest problem with the new Civic: a cheap, plastic look. Sources told Automotive News that the 2013 Accord's cabin will mark a definite upgrade from the current version.
Honda is mounting a solid comeback this year. When the new Accord goes on sale later this year, the Honda brand should look even better.