Honda to modify Fit to boost test score, calls back 12,000 cars

Thu Aug 21, 2014 10:08am EDT
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By Bernie Woodall

DETROIT (Reuters) - The first 12,000 U.S. customers who bought the 2015 Honda Fit subcompact cars will be asked to have the vehicles retrofitted to attain top marks from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Honda Motor Co (7267.T: Quote) and the IIHS said Thursday.

The action - which is not a safety recall aligned with U.S. safety regulators - is aimed at allowing all 2015 Fit cars to have the same, more robust front bumpers as cars made after June 9, when Honda changed the way they were produced, Chuck Thomas, chief engineer for vehicle safety at American Honda, said.

Honda said it would inform the affected 12,000 Fit owners late in September to bring the cars to dealers for the retrofit.

The launch of the 2015 version of the Fit was delayed and it has not found a firm footing with U.S. consumers. Through July, Fit sales were down 12 percent from a year earlier.

Seven months ago, the IIHS said the 2013 model Honda Fit was one of the poorest performers among 11 subcompact cars tested to simulate what happens when the front corner of a vehicle hits another car, a utility pole or tree. Of the 11, only General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote)'s Chevrolet Spark scored well.

To be dubbed an IIHS "Top Safety Pick" - an honor automakers use in marketing - a vehicle must be rated at least "acceptable" in "small front overlap" tests and "good" in four other tests. The ratings are “good,” “acceptable," “marginal” and “poor.”

Honda asked for a second chance in the "small overlap protection" test once its 2015 Fit arrived, and had predicted in January that the car would improve to a "good" rating.

But in an IIHS test in March, the subcompact only improved to "marginal" from "poor" in January, keeping it from attaining the top safety award from IIHS.   Continued...

The 2015 Honda Fit is introduced during the press preview day of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan January 13, 2014.   REUTERS/Rebecca Cook