2010 Honda Civic EX-L Sedan (source: american honda)
In the automotive business, few things are more expensive than making changes to a product that has already advanced through much of its developmental cycle. Making matters worse, many vehicles share a common platform, meaning that changes to a design could cause multiple product launches to be delayed.
So it must have been with great care and consideration that Honda made a mid-course change to its bread and butter Civic, deciding late in the game to make the caller smaller, lighter and less expensive. View a slideshow of the Honda Civic through the ages in this gallery. According to an Automotive News interview, this "Ah hah!" moment came to Honda CEO Takanobu Ito after the crash of Lehman Brothers in 2008. Ito recently told Automotive News in an interview (sub required),
We are taking more time to rethink the new Civic and all our models. We had to revisit our development work and planning to comply with the change in the environment.
With regards to the Civic, Ito was quite frank, telling Automotive News,
The team is struggling. We are injecting more manpower to meet our target.
As you might imagine, given that quote, Honda is not willing to talk about a revised time line for the Civic and related vehicles such as the CR-V and Element. Overall Ito has said that Honda's will be less expensive without being cheap, lighter weight, will incorporate more hybrids and electric-only vehicles. Honda is not alone in making massive course corrections. Many automotive executives around the world were having "Maalox moments" while fretting over future product plans.