Honda Turns Deaf Ear to Safety Leaves Bluetooth Off Most Civics

first_imgThe 2012 Honda Civic may be the best compact car ever made (see review), but a boneheaded marketing decision leaves the majority of Civic buyers unable to get Bluetooth, an important safety and convenience feature. The Bluetooth Handsfree Link feature is only on the Civic EX and EX-L models. It’s not on the barebones Civic DX that nobody cares about, but it’s also omitted from the next model up, the Civic LX, which has accounted for just over half of Civic sales. And it’s not on the Civic HF, the eco model sitting between the LX and EX designed to eke out a few more mpg.At the Civic press launch, I talked with several Honda executives. They said they ran extensive surveys and presented Civic-level buyers with “market baskets” of options and likely prices and didn’t hear support for Bluetooth at the LX level, meaning Civics with a list price of under $20,000. So, because of the kinds of research and cost-benefit analysis you learn about in MBA school, it’s off those Civics. Score one for the bean-counters. AdChoices广告What I didn’t hear from anyone at Honda was the kind of leadership you’d see at the upper levels of Apple: Survey the market and use the information for guidance. Then take some personal and corporate risk and make the call based on what’s best for the market, the customer, for the company’s reputation, and for the product’s contribution to a better society. The question Honda should have been asking focus groups was: “Knowing most every state has a hands-free law now or will in the next couple years, who should provide the hands-free cellphone link: you (with something dangling off your ear) or the automaker? And what’s the right price to build in to the car for Bluetooth: $25? $50? $100?” Or, “If it costs us the same to put in a CD player or Bluetooth, which would you rather have if you just got one?” When an automaker builds in Bluetooth, it’s not that expensive. Say Honda sinks $1 million in research and testing for Bluetooth the Civic. That’s a sunken cost because you have to build at least some Civics with Bluetooth. Then the marginal cost for Bluetooth electronics is pretty cheap, say $10 or $25 per car. Even if you double or quadruple the actual cost (common in retail), it comes in under $100 a car. When you build in Bluetooth, it automatically mutes the radio, something you don’t get with an earpiece Bluetooth device or one that clips to the visor. It’s always in the car. It’s never low on battery power. It sounds better. The phone can be controlled from the steering wheel or center stack. You see the caller’s phone number on the radio or instrument panel. Most integrated Bluetooth devices now stream audio from a smartphone. Some research shows using a cellphone even hands-free causes some level of distraction. It’s unlikely cellphones will be outlawed from cars outright even if we have an off-the-wall transportation secretary, Ray LaHood, who’s been floating trial balloons in that direction. Think about how well mandatory abstinence programs have worked in other areas. With cellphones a given in cars, Honda made a bad call to omit Bluetooth from the majority of new Civics. Compare that to Hyundai, which has USB and Bluetooth standard on all Hyundai Sonatas, a slightly bigger model. On the Hyundai Elantra that is a direct competitor, Bluetooth isn’t on a base model that would be equivalent to the Civic LX, but it is offered as part of a commonly accepted options package so that the vast majority of Elantras are delivered with Bluetooth, Hyundai says. * Car Review: 2012 Honda Civic Once Again the Best Compactlast_img read more

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