Honda Banks on a Sportier All-New 2018 Accord to Win the Tough Sedan Market

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Honda Motor Company (NYSE:HMC) is gearing up to launch a redesigned version of its huge-selling Accord sedan next month — and it released this sneak-preview “teaser” picture of the all-new 2018 Accord on Monday.

Honda plans to unveil the new Accord on July 14. There’s a lot about the new Honda that we won’t know until then. But Honda has told us quite a bit already, enough to see how the 2018 Accord might fare in the super-tough midsize sedan market.

A sketch showing a stylized view of the front end of the new 2018 Honda Accord sedan

Honda released this sketch hinting at the styling of its all-new 2018 Accord sedan. The 2018 Accord will be revealed next month, and will go on sale this fall. Image source: Honda Motor Co., Ltd.

What Honda said about the all-new 2018 Accord

Honda described the image you see above as a “concept sketch,” but said that it captures “the aggressive stance and proportion” of the all-new tenth-generation version of its popular Accord sedan. Clearly, attention-getting styling is part of Honda’s plan to differentiate the Accord from rivals.

Honda has said the all-new 2018 Accord will have three powertrain choices:

  • A 1.5 liter turbocharged four-cylinder with either a 6-speed manual transmission or Honda’s continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Honda didn’t release power figures for the Accord, but in the Civic, this engine generates 180 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque.
  • A more powerful 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder with either a brand-new 10-speed automatic transmission or a 6-speed manual. This engine is mechanically related to the high-performance engine found in the new Civic Type R, but the Accord version will be tuned for less power and more smoothness.
  • A gasoline-electric hybrid. It’s expected to be based around a non-turbo version of Honda’s 2.0 liter four-cylinder, but Honda hasn’t yet released details.

That 2.0 liter turbo engine is essentially the replacement for the current V6-powered Accord. I don’t expect it to make anything close to the 306 horsepower it makes in the track-star Civic Type R, but it should be considerably more powerful than the entry-level 1.5 liter turbo.

The all-new 2018 Accord will be American-made. Honda said that Accords for the U.S. market will be made at its Marysville, Ohio plant, which has been making Accords since 1982. Its engines will be produced at two different Honda engine factories in Ohio, and its 10-speed transmission will come from a Honda factory in Tallapoosa, Georgia.

Beyond that, we don’t know a whole lot about the all-new Accord, except that Honda has promised that it will be fun to drive. But that might turn out to be a big clue as to Honda’s intentions.

The new Accord is coming into a brutal market

Midsize sedans have been big sellers in the United States for decades. They still are, but more and more buyers who might have bought sedans a few years ago are choosing car-based crossover SUVs instead.

For some automakers, that has been a boon: Companies like General Motors (NYSE:GM) and Ford (NYSE:F), which have strong, established SUV lineups, have seen sales and profits grow nicely. But companies like Honda and archrival Toyota (NYSE:TM), which have long relied on big sales of compact and midsize sedans in the U.S., have been scrambling a bit as the market has shifted.

A 2018 Honda Accord covered in black-and-white camouflage to disguise details of its styling

This camouflaged pre-production 2018 Honda Accord shows that the car’s overall shape won’t be too radical. It’ll still be a Honda Accord. Image source: Honda Motor Co., Ltd.

While Honda was literally selling all of the CR-V crossovers it could make last year, Accord sales fell 3%. Sales of Toyota’s Camry, the Accord’s direct competitor, were down almost 10% in 2016 — and Toyota responded with an all-new 2018 Camry that features surprisingly (for Toyota, anyway) aggressive, sporty styling.

It looks like Honda is going the same way with its all-new Accord.

The takeaway: Honda plans to fight harder to win Accord buyers

The thing to remember is this: While sales of midsize sedans are down, they are still a huge market, particularly for the Accord and Camry, the longtime segment leaders. The size of the market, and Honda’s commanding presence in it, makes it worth fighting for even incremental sales gains. Honda’s strategy for doing so is becoming clear: Like Toyota, Honda will seemingly use dramatic styling, and more emphasis on performance, to help its latest model draw buyers away from rivals (and maybe even from SUVs).

How will it fare? We’ll find out before long: The 2018 Accord will begin arriving at dealers in the fall.

John Rosevear owns shares of Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Ford. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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