Honda Struggles With Negative Reactions to Crosstour

Posted: September 4, 2009

The results of a reader poll published at Autoblog tell the story: 3.4 percent of respondents think the Honda Accord Crosstour is a good-looking car. An astounding 80.7 percent, on the other hand, voted for the option "Kill it With Fire!!!"

Honda is struggling with the overwhelmingly negative reaction to its upcoming Crosstour Crossover. Essentially a tall wagon version of the Accord sedan, the Crosstour is an important vehicle for Honda. Toyota has had success with its similar Venza, which is little more than a Camry wagon, and Honda could theoretically achieve similar results with an Accord-based crossover.

The problem is the car's odd proportions - a long hood and unusually large grille create the appearance of a huge, bulbous nose. From automotive journalists to casual Facebook readers, most who have seen it seem to see the same off-putting proportions.

Ground Zero for the argument has been the Crosstour's official Facebook Page, where more than 4,000 people signed up as "fans" of the car on the day it was unveiled -- and most immediately began posting negative comments about the car's unusual appearance.

Honda has attempted several responses. At least one Honda employee - Manager of Product Planning Eddie Okubo - began posting positive comments on the page. Okubo, however, didn't identify himself as a Honda employee. When Facebook users caught on to his identity, Honda purged his comments from the page. Autoblog says, "His comments and other similar non-sanctioned corporate communique will one day wind up in business textbooks as examples of how social media marketing can go very, very wrong."

After Okubo's experience Jalopnik notes, Honda began a more formal effort at "damage control." The company posted a note to fans on the page, attempting to respond to the criticisms. "Some of the excuses are completely reasonable. For instance, Honda explains that the vehicle is built on the U.S. Accord platform and not the TSX platform, which is why it doesn't look like the European Honda Accord wagon. They also point out it's aimed at individuals (i.e. moms) in the crossover segment and their research shows it'll appeal to them."

One excuse, however, has re-ignited the firestorm. In its note, Honda wrote, "the two studio photos we posted didn't give you enough detail, nor were they the best to showcase the vehicle. There are more photos on the way. Maybe it's like a bad yearbook photo or something, and we think the new photos will clear things up."

The "blame the photographer" excuse is now being mocked once again in comments on the page. Jalopnik comments, "We're sorry, but if your vehicle is ugly from 3/4 front and 3/4 back it's just ugly and we doubt more detail is going to change that."

Honda, however, apparently has no plans to change the design. Honda spokesman Chuck Schifsky tells Kicking Tires, "We're confident with the styling." Schifsky "suggested that people need to see the Crosstour in person and on the road before leveling criticism. He also said that it's a little bigger than the Accord, so possibly the larger grille won't seem so off-putting in person."

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