Honda prepares for electrifying lineup

Revisions to the 2018 Honda Accord Hybrid’s two-motor hybrid system boost efficiency.

After several years of culling slow-selling niche models, Honda has a fresh, strong-selling core lineup. Honda will now focus on electrifying its key players and adding new models in just the right segments.


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Future Product Pipeline


Fit:A freshened 2018 Fit showed up last month with mild cosmetic improvements and new features. Honda Sensing, a suite of autonomous safety and driving features, is now standard on EX trims and above and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are available on most versions. A redesign should arrive by 2020. Because the Fit is price sensitive, don’t expect big changes such as turbocharging.

Variants of the Civic Type R are coming, likely as 2019 or 2020 models.

Civic:​ After a strong 2016, Civic sales have cooled for 2017 though fresh models keep rolling into dealerships, such as the Si and long-awaited Type R. Variants of the Type R are coming but likely not until the 2019 or 2020 model years; they’ll include a more powerful track-focused model and a more mainstream version that could offer an alternative to the six-speed manual transmission. A hybrid or plug-in hybrid Civic is expected in 2018 or 2019 based on Honda’s promise to introduce such versions of its core models. A freshened base Civic should arrive for the 2019 model year.

Accord:​ The 10th-generation sedan debuted this month as a 2018 model. Set to go on sale this year, it rides on the same front-wheel-drive platform as the Civic and CR-V. It uses a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a continuously variable transmission as its base powertrain and a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with a 10-speed automatic as the optional powertrain that replaces the long-standing V-6. A six-speed manual is available on base models of each engine, and all models have Honda Sensing.​ The Accord Hybrid returns with revisions to its two-motor hybrid system that boost efficiency.

Sports car:​ Since the S2000 died, Honda diehards — and dealers — have yearned for a successor. The Civic Type R only partially fills that void, and repeated patent filings for a small Honda or Acura two-seat, midengine sports car have kept speculation rampant. Acura would make more sense for the U.S., considering it has more to gain from an approachable performance halo, something the NSX is too pricey to pull off. If it happens, expect rear- or all-wheel drive, and at least a hybrid or plug-in hybrid and possibly even an electric.

Stand-alone hybrid: Honda’s global CEO announced at the 2017 Detroit auto show that his company was developing a stand-alone hybrid to be built and sold in the U.S. Despite reports of a Tokyo auto show debut, this vehicle is set for an early 2018 debut as a 2019 model. Whether it’s a crossover or car remains to be seen, but it will most likely be a C-segment vehicle. Consumers’ preference for crossovers and the fact that a hybrid car could be confusingly close to the Clarity lineup help the case for a crossover. But brands such as Honda are eager to have a Prius fighter, the failure of Honda’s second-gen Insight notwithstanding.

Will plug-in versions of other models make Clarity Plug-In Hybrid moot?

Clarity: By year end, Honda’s entire Clarity lineup of plug-in hybrid, electric and fuel cell models will be available in limited markets. Whether each version gets a successor is another question. The electric model could be replaced by a stand-alone EV in the next decade, while plug-in versions of several Honda models could make a Clarity Plug-in Hybrid moot.

As for fuel cell vehicles, Honda is still touting their merits and at the same time hedging against their failure with a push into EV development. Given the long life of the previous Clarity FCX, don’t expect a next-gen fuel cell Clarity until next decade. In the meantime, the fruits of Honda’s fuel cell partnership with General Motors could show up in a revised Clarity powertrain for the car’s midcycle freshening around 2020.

HR-V:​ New for 2016, this tidy crossover based on the Fit should get a freshening in 2018 as a 2019 model. Like the Fit, the HR-V is price-sensitive, so don’t expect major powertrain changes.

CR-V: Redesigned for the 2017 model year, the CR-V leaped to the top of Honda’s sales charts, displacing the Accord. A hybrid using the Accord’s two-motor system is expected for the 2019 model year.

New crossover: Many dealers have sought a larger five-passenger crossover that could compete against a Ford Edge or a Nissan Murano in the near-premium space. Such a product could arrive in 2018 for the 2019 model year. It would be largely based on the Pilot — and even built in Lincoln, Ala., where Honda makes its other light trucks.

Pilot:​ The redesigned version went on sale in 2016. A midcycle freshening is expected to debut late next year as a 2019 model. It could have the V-6 complemented by Honda’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder as a lower-cost option. After all, competitors such as the Mazda CX-9, 2018 Chevrolet Traverse and Ford Explorer are on the turbo-four bandwagon. Honda could also introduce a plug-in hybrid Pilot at this point.

Ridgeline:​ Honda’s redesigned truck is just a few months old and rides on the same light-truck platform as the Odyssey and Pilot. Look for a midcycle freshening in 2020, but no significant powertrain changes.

Odyssey:​ Honda’s minivan is fresh off a redesign in which it added a standard nine-speed automatic transmission and an optional 10-speed automatic for the 2018 model year.

Next up is the possibility of a hybrid or plug-in model, as early as 2019. The Odyssey shares its platform with the Acura MDX, a chassis designed from the ground up to accommodate a hybrid system and its batteries. The rival Chrysler Pacifica already offers a plug-in version.