Here is an article I read a couple weeks ago, it mentions a freshened Accord by this Fall. I believe that maybe the freshen Accord, looks better than the ugly rear end of the current ones, but didn't they just change the taillights for the '05s?. IMO they made the tail lights worse cuz there is too much red and these new tails look like the Civic Si concept.
I bolded parts of the article that mentions the freshening of the Accord.
AUTO SALES: Game is changing as Honda hits slump
Even successful brands can become stale
March 30, 2005
BY SARAH A. WEBSTER
FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER
For decades, a conventional wisdom has loomed over the Motor City: The Japanese Big Three are taking over the United States auto market and Detroit's old Big Three are destined for oblivion.
But with Honda sales taking a surprising downturn this year and Chrysler sales on a steady upward trajectory, there's a new motto in town: There are no favorites in this dog-eat-dog auto market.
"There are pressures on Honda -- just like everybody else," said Michael Robinet, vice president of global vehicle forecasting at CSM Worldwide in Farmington Hills.
Honda's sales decline of 8.3 percent in the first two months of the year is practically in lockstep with that of General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. Their sales are off 9.9 percent and 7.4 percent, respectively.
In this brutal marketplace, it seems the right or wrong products can swiftly swing the fortunes of any automaker, no matter how strong or weak their foothold in the marketplace might seem. So if a stale Accord and Civic can shake the stalwart Honda brand, as is clearly the case, a few key products surely could rescue Detroit's ailing automakers.
The former Chrysler Corp., now a division of the German DaimlerChrysler AG, is proof of that. A few cool products, such as the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum, have moved what is now the Chrysler Group from a string of financial, sales and market-share losses to an impressive list of gains these days.
Meanwhile, the blame for Honda Motor's performance this year largely falls on the flagship Honda brand, its resistance to offering big rebates, and the fast-declining popularity of its two best-selling vehicles -- the long-dependable Accord and Civic cars.
Sales of Honda's Acura luxury vehicles are up 5.4 percent for the first two months of the year, compared with last year. But Honda division sales are down a stark 10.6 percent during the same period.
Although the automaker is still profitable, the Honda brand seems to be losing some appeal with U.S. consumers. For the year through February, the Honda brand's share of the U.S. market fell to 6.5 percent from about 7 percent a year ago.
Dick Colliver, executive vice president of American Honda Motor Co. Inc., acknowledged the new competitive pressures.
"We've been fighting that battle to hold our sales up," Colliver said. "Are we concerned? Yeah, we're concerned. Are we going to panic? No."
Automakers report their monthly sales results on Friday, and Colliver predicts the company will report a sales gain in March, compared with the same month a year ago. Despite that, he said that Honda's sales and market share are still likely to be down for the 2005 first quarter.
Competition hurts car sales
Honda's trucks aren't the big problem. While the CR-V and Element SUVs are down for the year, the Pilot SUV and Odyssey minivan are more than offsetting those losses. Honda truck sales are up 4 percent for the first two months of the year.
Honda car sales, meanwhile, are in the tank -- down 20.7 percent.
"Passenger cars is where we're seeing the biggest competition," Colliver said, "and that's where we've started shifting a lot of our focus -- back to those two car lines."
The Accord was the fifth-best-selling vehicle in the United States last year, while the Civic ranked eighth. But sales of the Accord were down 15 percent for the first two months of the year, and sales of the Civic were off 26.9 percent. That dropped the Accord to the sixth-most-popular vehicle in the United States this year, with the Civic in 11th place.
Joe Phillippi, president of Auto Trends Consulting Inc., an automotive research firm in Short Hills, N.J., blamed Honda's troubles on bland styling with the Accord, which is now in the third year of its current body style, and the Civic, which is in its fifth and final year.
He also said a suspension change in the Civic, which affected its handling, also was rejected by young buyers who like to customize the vehicles.
Today's tough market, he said, demands a great and complete package: looks, brains, power and reliability -- all at the right price.
"There's a growing number of sexy-looking vehicles out there," Phillippi cautioned.
Dealerships also need to be able to close deals in this tough environment.
"Honda dealers aren't used to having to push a vehicle," said Alan Baum, director of forecasting at the Planning Edge in Birmingham. "They're used to a vehicle selling itself."
Colliver said Honda has plans to correct its troubles.
"We may have been a little conservative with the '01 Civic and the '03 Accord," he said. "We've started addressing that."
Indeed, a funky, more powerful Civic is on its way.
The automaker revealed a Civic Si concept at the Chicago Auto Show last month that is a thinly disguised version of the all-new 2006 Civic coupe that will be available in the fall, along with an all-new Civic sedan.
The Si concept is aggressively styled, with an extremely short hood, a dramatically sloped windshield and a sporty rear wing.
"It's a major change for us," Colliver said.
Phillippi said the Civic concept reveals that Honda has "gotten the message" the market has been sending by rejecting its cars.
A freshened-up version of the Accord also will be available by the end of the year, sooner than originally planned.
Colliver also noted that Honda recently released two new Accord models -- a special edition coupe and value package sedan -- to give sales a lift.
"We know we've got to freshen the product up," Colliver said. "We need to do some things to get us a little more competitive in the marketplace."
Colliver said the company is still on target to sell 300,000 Civics and 400,000 Accords this year. And another boost may come from the new Honda Ridgeline pickup, with an inventive trunk in its bed, which just hit showrooms. The automaker expects to sell 50,000 over the next year.
But in the coming years, Honda may have to tweak its image, as well.
New marketing strategy
Robinet said the Honda name still has plenty of brand value in the market. But the name largely has been built on the company's reputation for dependable, reliable, high-quality vehicles.
As the quality of all vehicles sold in the United States starts to balance out, Honda will have to find another hook for reeling in customers.
The quality difference between all-new vehicles today is minimal -- so small that they are measured in fractions.
With these differences becoming progressively negligible, and customers slowly beginning to take notice, automakers who have long set themselves apart for their quality -- especially Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda -- must find new selling points, Phillippi said.
Typically when automakers don't have just the right mix of styling cues, power train, quality reputation or other features, they turn to discounts to lower the price and offset their shortcomings. Honda, however, largely has resisted offering cash-back rebates and other special incentives.
It's clear that Honda is thinking about them, though.
"We see some people walking from our dealerships because we don't offer incentives," Colliver conceded.
Of the nation's Big Six automakers, Honda offers the lowest incentives. Its rebates and other incentives averaged $781 for the first two months of the year, according to estimates by Autodata Corp. of Woodcliff Lake, N.J. Automakers do not publicly release how much they spend on incentives.
Even Toyota incentives are up 18.8 percent for the first two months of the year, to an average of $1,016 per vehicle.
So for consumers choosing between two quality leaders such as Toyota and Honda, a discount offered by Toyota may be a deal-breaker.
"If Honda was willing to play the incentive game, they could be doing far better than they currently are," said Joe Barker, manager of North American sales analysis for CSM Worldwide in Farmington Hills. "They're just not willing to play the incentives game."
Colliver said that Honda recently has ramped up behind-the-scene incentives to dealers to about $300 per vehicle on the Accord and Civic. But with the new Civic and freshened Accord not slated to hit showrooms until fall, the company may have a long, long summer selling season ahead.
Cars typically sell better in the summer months. But if Honda car sales don't pick up soon, bigger incentives could be in the offing.
Said Colliver: "Never say never."