During the '70s and '80s, when the United States automotive market was slowly declining as a result of efficiency and emissions standards, uninspired designs, and atrocious build quality problems, brands such as Honda stepped in and filled the empty automotive market with efficient, reliable commuter cars that would run forever and cost a song.
But Honda's legendary status as one of the world's premier automakers is waning. By the year 2000, the company had peaked with unrivaled successes with the Civic, NSX, and S2000—nowadays, there's little to differentiate a Honda from a Toyota or a Nissan or even a Kia other than the badge on the nose. So where did everything go wrong for a company that seemed poised to take the 21st century by storm?
The answer comes in the form of mistakes that snowballed over the years, revealing deep flaws in every phase of the business. Keep scrolling for 16 times Honda messed up big time.
16 Original NSX Snap Ring Failure
When Honda produced the NSX, which was also sold under the Acura nameplate, they succeeded in creating a stunning sports car that could compete with a Ferrari at a fraction of the cost.
Yet the first-gen NSX, like so many first-gen cars, had one major flaw: the well-documented snap ring failure that was caused by what NSX Prime calls an "improperly manufactured transmission case."
15 Original NSX Coolant Lines
The original NSX utilized a mid-engine layout, like the most aggressive Ferraris, with a transverse-mounted V6 engine featuring VTEC. Of course, most Ferraris don't have much storage space and their engines are crammed tightly into their tiny bodies.
The NSX was no different, which resulted in a highly reliable engine that needs plenty of long circuitous coolant hoses to be replaced in hard-to-reach places for it to remain reliable.
14 Original NSX Targa Top Stiffness
The final flaw in the original Acura and Honda NSX is one that was made as a sacrifice to styling and consumer appeal: the Targa top. The Targa NSX examples are much less stiff than their fixed-roof or sunroof siblings, which helped inspire Honda to then increase bracing in later model years of the NSX.
13 New NSX Hybrid Complexity
When Honda decided to revive the Acura NSX for a new generation with the 2016 model year, fanboys of the brand went wild. But then, it became clear that Honda had completely lost their way.
The result was an overly complex NSX that utilized a hybrid powerplant to power all four wheels. Meanwhile, the car weighs a hefty 3,800 pounds!
12 New NSX Price Tag
To be fair, the new NSX's performance stats are pretty impressive – right up there with base-level Ferraris. However, Honda has also lost the NSX's soul when it comes to the price tag: the model starts at over $150,000 and can easily creep higher with various options packages.
While the original was a supercar for the masses, the current NSX is a supercar for wealthy elites only.
11 Abandoned VTEC
One reason Honda's sports cars were so impressive for so many years was their use of VTEC – the company's proprietary valve timing system. Essentially, VTEC greatly increased power at high RPMs, which is what aggressive drivers love. But after many generations of high-revving engines, VTEC has almost entirely been phased out in favor of lower-revving turbocharged engine options.
10 No S2000 Coupe
Other than the NSX, Honda's other rear-wheel-drive sports car during the early-2000s was the S2000. With a screaming four-banger under the hood that powered the rear wheels through a buttery six-speed stick shift and a factory limited-slip differential, what's not to love?
The only major flaw was that Honda should have created an S2000 coupe, rather than sticking to convertibles.
9 New Designs
Honda earned a solid market share in the United States by offering simple commuter cars that were reliable, efficient, and affordable. Even their sports cars were reasonably priced!
But now, stalwarts of the lineup such as the Civic have started to get pretty excessive in terms of design and features, which is not a part of Honda's success and something they should remedy ASAP.
8 Bribery Scandal
Not all of Honda's major mistakes are limited to their automobile engineering, design, and build quality. In fact, Honda has had some corporate scandals over the years that should probably give potential owners and loyal fans pause.
Case in point was the bribery scandal covered by the New York Times, which revealed how dealerships in the 1980s were forced to pay sales execs for the right to earn their quotas of vehicles to sell.
7 Honda Owned Takata
Everyone who owns a car in the modern era has heard of the Takata airbag recall, a scandal that has resulted in many lives lost, on top of an entire company going under due to extensive fines and the cost of massive recalls.
But not many people realize that on top of Honda cars being equipped with Takata airbags, Honda actually owned Takata too.
6 Takata 1995
The airbag scandal, it turns out, wasn't even the first problem Honda encountered with Takata, though it was definitely the most serious and widespread. But Honda should have known some shady stuff was going on after the 1995 seatbelt recall that followed an NHTSA investigation into Honda cars equipped with Takata seatbelt buckles that wouldn't latch, would unlatch randomly, and would even unlatch purposefully during an accident, as documented by The Center for Auto Safety.
5 Made Fun of Nissan
The automotive industry might have been less surprised than relieved when Nissan finally worked with prosecutors to aid in the arrest of their former executive, Carlos Ghosn. The scandal is far from over, with criminal proceedings still very strongly on the table, but Honda got themselves involved in the mess when the company's official Twitter account tweeted in Japanese, "So you did it, Nissan, Carlos Ghosn has been arrested!"
4 2015 NHTSA Fine
In more recent news, Honda became quietly involved in a minor scandal that the company managed to keep on the down-low. But deep on their website Honda News, the company does have a press release that details a NHTSA fine of $70 million related to the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act. Apparently, Honda had been underreporting significant safety statistics.
3 Touch-Sensitive Volume Slider
Stepping away from scandals and back to the current design flaws of Honda cars, which have almost entirely lost the spirit of their forebears, one major sign of how Honda somehow thinks that reinventing the wheel is a good thing comes in the touchscreen seen above.
That volume bar on the left side is a touch-sensitive slider, which has been universally reviled by Honda owners since its debut.
2 Honda F1 Engines for McLaren
Honda doesn't just build commuter cars; they also provide engines for Formula 1 teams. But that arena has been suffering lately, as was well documented on the Amazon series GRAND PRIX Driver.
The show was pretty much cut short because McLaren struggled so much with their Honda engines, which Fernando Alonso famously had an outburst over regarding power and reliability – or a lack thereof.
1 Honda F1 Engines for Red Bull
After being dumped by McLaren's F1 team, Honda signed a contract with Red Bull Racing. But Red Bull apparently expected Honda to underperform when compared to their former partner, Renault, and wished Honda had been more forthright about communicating exactly what their engine would be capable of.
Of course, more power is great in F1, but communication between partners is equally as important in automotive design.
Sources: NSX Prime, The Center for Auto Safety, and Honda News.