Classic Ad: Honda Carves Its Lane in U.S. Automotive Industry

This 1974 Honda advertisement is from 50 years ago when the Japanese automaker was carving out its lane in the North American automotive market.

Honda introduced the Civic to the U.S. market in 1972, and it quickly became a symbol of efficiency amid the fuel crisis. The Civic’s aesthetics and innovations, including its CVCC engine technology that met emission standards without a catalytic converter, earned it an enthusiastic following that was becoming mainstream by 1974.

Available with automatic and standard transmissions, the Civic was designed for mass appeal as consumer preferences shifted toward more fuel-efficient compact vehicles. At the time, automatics were gaining popularity for the ease of use, especially in cities with heavy traffic. While standards were still more fuel efficient, that gap was closing.

Catering to both preferences gained Honda footing in a diverse market where consumer preference was shifting toward automatic transmission. This ad touts the Civic’s Hondamatic option, which allowed the driver the change gears like a manual transmission without operating a clutch pedal.

This ad also takes an obvious jab at the American automotive manufacturers with the opening line: “Some car manufacturers actually believe women buy cars for different reasons than men do.”

A “woman’s car,” as the ad puts it, would be a bland oversized vehicle designed for someone who only cares about getting from point A to point B.

In contrast, here’s the opening text of a 1974 AMC Gremlin ad targeting women buyers: “You and AMC and your carefree little car – it’s the smoothest affair ever. Take the gas-stingy little Gremlin, for instance. You don’t have to be a mechanic to own one. And you don’t have to be a lawyer to understand our guarantee.”

1974 AMC Gremlin print advertisement

Aesthetically, to me at least, the ad looks like it could’ve been shot today or the 90s. I would’ve never assumed it was from the 70s, which is why it jumped out at me.

Ads were retrieved from Consumer Guide Automotive.