2015_Civic_Natural_Gas
Parks McCants's picture

What’s really killing Honda Civic Natural GAS

While always a low volume seller, Civic Natural Gas sits on the edge of extinction. With sales reported in the mid triple digits for all of 2013, Torque News looks for an answer or two. What’s really killing Honda Civic Natural Gas sales?
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As reported Monday by Forbes.Com, Civic Natural Gas sales have all but dissipated. Never a big seller, according to Forbes and substantiated by Honda’s December sales report, a mere 751 Civic NGs sold in 2014; down from 2198 in 2013. That’s a big hit by any measure.

Will Honda NG go the way of Insight?

Honda Civic Natural Gas is a corporate, government and transportation district Fleet Vehicle. As fleet buyer’s shift to cheap gasoline fuels alternatives, is Civic CNG headed to the halls of Honda history?

Could be, although in the 2015, “Year of Honda” speech, we’re assured that Honda will continue in the development and promotion of natural gas fueled vehicles. So what killed Honda CNG sales in 2014?

Fleet sales are cyclical and often dependent on volume discount, lease incentives, etc. There’s also that price thing. Civic Natural gas is the highest priced Civic in the line-up. While the high price trade-off may be longer engine life, extended service cycles and ease of fueling within one’s company or public infrastructure with a base MSRP of $27,740 and $29,390 for leather, Civic CNG is price $8,300 higher than a comparably equipped Civic LX. You may read full specifications here.

Lower emissions, but less power and torque too.

We reported on Civic Natural Gas back in 2013 and received a very positive response from our readers and a fueling network or two. However, Honda may be way ahead of the curve with Civic NG. Beyond the initial purchase price consideration is a very sparse public fueling network, in-effect stifling most if not all private sector interest. And, with a meaningful drop in the retail price of gasoline, fleet interest in Civic NG falls by the wayside. EV anyone?

We believe that with the further expansion of compressed natural gas public fueling locations, and an uptick in gasoline prices predicted for late 2015, Civic NG sales will increase. And, with sales volume will come a reduction in the retail sales and lease price of Civic Natural Gas.

If you or the company you work for own a Civic Natural Gas, we’d like to read your view at Torque News. How do you like driving Civic NG?


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Comments

I own a 2012 Civic CNG in Southern California and love it. Gas is cheap. The last fill up was $1.94/gal and I got 30 mpg. It's easy and inexpensive to maintain - it's a Honda Civic! Yes, the price difference between nat gas and gasoline isn't so big TODAY but it wasn't just 6 months ago that it was. Don't forget the days when gas was $4-5/gallon. Sure it's even less of a"race car" than a gas-powered Civic so I would never pull out in front of well, anything, for fear of ending up a hood ornament. The premium when I bought my Civic GX was $5K over the LX which wasn't going to take me long to break even because I was changing from a luxury car requiring premium gas and only getting 19 mpg no matter what type of driving I did. Since I got my nat gas Civic the number of stations in my locale has doubled. There still isn't one on every corner but I explain it like this: if you only fill up your gas vehicle at a Costco gas station and you drive past the other gas stations, that's kind of what it's like. There's a big push to expand the network of natural gas filling stations across the country, especially now that municipalities and airports are converting to natural gas. I'm still waiting for the home compressor that's affordable. It's a zero emissions energy source. It's so abundant in our own country which reduces our dependence on foreign oil. I can drive in the carpool lane by myself and get to where I need to be so much quicker. What's not to like? Maybe Civic NG sales have dropped but maybe there are more NG vehicles out there (conversions, trucks, etc.). Also, fleet buying cycles are just that, cycles, and since that comprises the bulk of Civic NG sales to date it makes sense that there could be such a dip. The Civic, natural gas or gasoline, can only fit a certain percentage of consumers looking for a car. Since there are no other choices in NG cars, that really restricts the buying pool. Consumers are largely still unaware of the benefits and somewhat relative ease of owning a natural gas car. Perhaps the natural gas vehicles could use a little help from the marketing firm of the brussel sprout?
Well said Trixie. Thanks for the well written thought provoking commentary. I agree with you. High fuel prices will return in the short term.
I have been driving the civic natural gas since 2011, at that time i purchased a Coltri MCH-5 natural gas compressor that I found on ebay for 12,000$, I have fueled at home for about .70 cents a gallon, refuel from empty takes about 3 hours. Since then I have purchase 1 more civic and a chevy HD CNG truck, all together i have pumped about 16,000 gallons of fuel from home. The added cost of the compressor has long since paid for itself. I only wish i had got into CNG sooner. Both of my civics and my CNG truck have performed flawlessly along with my CNG Compressor. I wish Honda had continued to produce the Civic, Would love to upgrade my daily driver.
I live in Los Angeles which has a pretty good natural gas fueling network. When I had a change in work assignments mid-2013 that moved the start of my day to peak rush hour times, getting a car that had free access to the express carpool lane was something that suddenly became very appealing. It was either a full EV, an NGV or a plug-in hybrid. Both full EVs and plug-in hybrids were quite expensive at the time, but there were some incredible deals on the 2012 Civic CNG. I ended up getting a brand new one for $22000, the dealership paid $1000 of downpayment for me and they had a promotion for a $3000 gas card as well. When I was looking at essentially an $18000 car, the Civic CNG was a much more attractive option than any other carpool lane accessible vehicle. I've had the car for about a year and a half now and it's been a smooth ride. Benefits in addition to the carpool lane are that refuel times are comparable to gasoline fillups -- much shorter than any EV charger. In addition, I can get about a 200 mile range on a tank for about $10-$15, which is considerably greater than any EV outside of the Tesla which costs 4x as much. That said, without the carpool lane access, I'm not sure if I'd keep the car. The refueling is a little more inconvenient than gasoline and the range is certainly smaller than a gasoline-powered car. Looking at a map, I might possibly be able to make it to Oregon to the north and Las Vegas to the north-east, but could go no further than that. I couldn't even leave the state going east, but these are problems that all alt-fuel cars are going to have. In terms of convenience, I'd rank an NGV behind a gasoline vehicle (including plug in hybrids), but far above any EV on the market right now. I'm not sure why Honda has priced the Civic CNG so high, the trim level it's based on is the SE, which MSRP's for $19990.
Love your comment Kat. The public relations manager at American Honda drives an NG, commutes 1.5 hours(each way) from home to work and as you, loves the economical fuel economy and express lane accessibility of Honda NG. Take care.
The car is great I love the the gas savings but the initial cost is what I believe is killing the car sales it will take you just over 4 years to make up the cost difference and that is just not right! for a car that does not have extras, the cost to manufacture are not any more than the cost of a regular civic. So why make it more expensive?
Good point Rafael! Please note that the Civic CNG was developed for corporate fleet sales. And, that those individuals and companies participating in the program off-set the initial purchase cost with tax credits, fuel rebates, etc. Last year in California, the state participated in a dealer-direct-to-buyer purchase incentive in the form of cash... In my opinion the CNG goes the way of the Insight due to lack of fueling network, and... effectively(mpg) higher fuel costs. Thanks for your comment.
I own a 2014 Civic Natural Gas. In my opinion, Honda waited until very late to offer widespread consumer sales of the CNG Civic to the general public. This car was fleet-only outside of California for many years. And the cars before that were poorly equipped, very fleet feeling. The last models (2014-2015) were well-equipped and an easier car for a person to use as a daily driver than the earlier models which felt stripped. The car is wonderful and I have excellent fueling infrastructure around my area so it's not an inconvenience at all. In my part of the country, the electricity is made almost exclusively with natural gas and I'm offsetting nothing by using an electric vehicle as the natural gas power plants don't burn as cleanly as the Honda. We're trading off vices. It's tough with gas prices being at $1.35/gallon right now. There's NO CNG advantage in pricing whatsoever. Get gas prices to $4/gallon and we'll see things change on that but what killed it, in my opinion, was gas prices tanking and waiting too late the open it up to widespread sale. They didn't promote this car ANYWHERE outside of California, where they had TV ads, billboards, etc. Nothing anywhere else except maybe briefly in Oklahoma (Pickens plan area). Like a lot of Honda failures, this one seems to rest on poor marketing and conditions outside of their control. It's a great car and I will be driving it for many years to come, happily, but no one from Honda encouraged me to buy it. I had to seek it out after research
I own a 2012 Honda Civic CNG. They built it wrong. They need twice the range and more performance. I don't need a back seat just the HOV sticker. This is a commuter car not a family-sized sedan.
Welcome Edward. As you know Honda no longer sells the Civic CNG in the U.S.. However, if they were to reintroduce it to the market, what changes would you like to see in this car? Thanks for dropping by.
Now it appears to be too late. The HOV lane access sticker has 9 months to live. Serious efforts to extend HOV access in Sacramento is the ONLY starting point to reintroduction. As for the car itself, it's owners need range, not back seats. We are Doctors, Lawyers, Tech Industry Executives & Engineers, and other high worth individuals who value time, yet understand that electric vehicles SUCK, and we don't wish to spend $100K on a Tesla. (That takes WAY TOO long to "fuel up") We have other cars for family trips on the weekends. We only use the CNG to commute, but we'd like to keep doing that into 2019.
True dat. The range is the ONLY downside. Honda doesn't build anything "wrong" though.
I was going. to buy one given the cheap fuel and long engine life until I saw that the NNOtank took up so much of the trunk space. If they could fix this is really like that they offered it in their Honda CRV.
I got my 2004 civic gx the other day used w 99,000 miles on it for $2,850. NOT $28,850. Nice savings huh? It looks and drives like new. I got it so I could drive in the ridiculously stupid HOV lane, that only ADDS to congestion and pollution in CA., as is a boon for cops writing $600 tickets that don't go to fix roads. EV vehicle anyone? No. Guess where the electricity comes from to power that EV? NATURAL GAS! And as for power and torque, my CVT more than makes up for the 15 HP loss. Do the math.
Randy, do you plan on changing out your tank that will "expire" sometime next year?