At Honda, tease after tease for a franchise

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A sketch of the newest Accord released by Honda.

American families are abandoning midsize sedans in alarming numbers, with U.S. sales off 18 percent this year. At that pace, segment volume is likely to drop by more than 200,000 units in 2017 — an amount equal to the annual output at your average North American assembly plant.

That’s a seismic shift in a market still near its peak. And the numbers would probably be uglier if not for thousands of shipments to daily rental customers.

For many consumers, the family sedan has become an appliance. Crossovers and SUVs offer more utility, visibility and comfort without sacrificing fuel economy.

But at Honda, the midsize Accord is still a franchise. Since its debut in 1976, American consumers, many of them baby boomers, have bought more than 13 million Accords. It was the first light vehicle from a Japanese automaker to be made in America.

Honda says the Accord has been the retail sales leader in the U.S. midsize sedan market for four straight years beginning in 2013. And in the first five months of 2017, based on retail deliveries to individual buyers, Honda says the Accord is the top-selling midsize sedan in the U.S. and the second best-selling passenger car overall, topped only by the redesigned Honda Civic.

In years past, the debut of a retooled Accord was usually a closely held secret. 

But for the re-engineered 2018 Accord, Honda is disclosing key details wave by wave. Last month, when powertrain plans were released, Honda took the rare step of releasing an image of the 2018 Accord in camouflage.

In a concept sketch released Monday, Honda offered another peek at the styling and proportions of the 2018 Honda Accord. The car will be formally introduced in Detroit and via Honda’s YouTube channel on July 14.

Honda is billing the redesigned sedan as “the most fun-to-drive, premium and dramatically styled Accord ever.”

Translation: Honda is confirming what spy photos have already revealed — the Accord is going fastback, just like every other car in the segment, including the latest Chevrolet Malibu.

The 10th-generation Accord will be offered with two new direct-injected and turbocharged engines paired with Honda’s new 10-speed automatic transmission, a CVT or a 6-speed manual transmission depending upon engine. The optional V-6 engine has been dropped for 2018.

Honda’s latest two-motor hybrid powertrain technology will also be available.

You’ll recall the ninth-generation 2013 Accord was hailed by Honda as the most sculpted and dynamic midsize sedan ever engineered and designed by the company. The styling was mostly praised by critics, but nothing over the top.

The American family sedan isn’t going the way of the American family wagon any time soon, but Honda, like many rivals, is determined to make it fun again and keep its edge in a still key segment.

We’ll find out next month just how much Honda moves the needle. 

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