It spear­headed the Ja­panese mo­tor­ing in­va­sion of the UK, prov­ing that low cost need not mean low qual­ity. Yet it slipped into anonymity – a trav­esty, says An­drew Roberts

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Forgotten Hero -

Forty years ago the av­er­age Bri­tish mo­torist would have been for­given for over­look­ing the launch of a Ja­panese hatch­back. 1976 saw the de­but of the Ford Fi­esta, the Rover SD1, the As­ton Martin Lagonda, the Lo­tus Es­prit and the Porsche 924, so Honda’s an­nounce­ment of its new Ac­cord was some­what over­shad­owed. But by the end of the decade, they were fa­mil­iar sights in the UK, and by 1989 the third gen­er­a­tion model was the best-sell­ing car in the USA.

The Civic of 1972 was the first Honda to be­come a ma­jor ex­port suc­cess in North Amer­ica and the Ac­cord was both an am­bi­tious at­tempt to ap­ply the Civic’s for­mula to the light-medium Ja­panese car mar­ket and ban­ish mem­o­ries of the 1300 of 1968.

This was Honda’s first real at­tempt at a ri­val to the 510-se­ries Dat­sun Blue­bird and the Toy­ota Corona T40 in both do­mes­tic and for­eign mar­kets but it proved to be over-so­phis­ti­cated for its in­tended buy­ers. The com­pany sold few 1300s in Eu­rope and none of­fi­cially reached the USA. For the sake of the com­pany’s im­age – and its fi­nances – the Ac­cord could not re­peat au­to­mo­tive his­tory. fi­nally achieve this aim. Honda de­cided to name 671 as the Ac­cord, to ‘re­flect the har­mony be­tween the car and so­ci­ety’. Nice.

Six months af­ter its launch in May 1976, 53,752 units had been sold. In the USA, sales in­creased from 18,643 to 75,995 by 1977. This pleased Honda, which had ex­ten­sively tested pro­to­types across the States, from Alaska to Ari­zona.

Such ex­ten­sive prepa­ra­tions for the US mar­ket were one rea­son for the Ac­cord’s suc­cess. An­other sig­nif­i­cant el­e­ment was the tim­ing of its de­but: in the af­ter­math of the oil cri­sis, Amer­i­can mo­torists who pre­vi­ously would never have con­sid­ered buy­ing a for­eign car were now start­ing to look at the Volk­swa­gen Rab­bit or Toy­ota Corolla Lift­back.

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