June 1976: The Beatles were six years gone and Paul McCartney’s “Silly Love Songs” was the #1 song in America.
That year, Oldsmobile sold a million units, and its Cutlass was the most popular car in America.
And the Accord – a car Honda built specifically for the American market – had just hit the streets.
Four decades and nine generations later, the Honda Accord reaches middle age with more than 12.7 million Accords produced (most out of American Honda plants), Paul McCartney is still recording, but Oldsmobile no longer exists. The Accord is consistently one of the most popular cars in America, and has continued to redefine the midsize sedan market.
Car and Driver has selected the Honda Accord for its annual 10Best list 30 times. Think of all the other vehicles produced over the last 40 years. None of them has that kind of consistency.
“The Accord embodies the challenging spirit of Honda and our commitment to delivering innovative products to our customers of the highest quality, reliability and value,” said John Mendel, executive vice president of the Automobile Division of American Honda Motor Co., Inc.
“Accord’s success over four decades is deeply woven into the fabric of American car culture and American industry, and we are thankful for and deeply humbled by the loyalty and trust that our customers have placed in Honda and in Accord over the past 40 years.,” Mendel adds.
The Accord was the natural evolution of the Civic, which emerged in 1972. The entire automotive industry — and most pointedly, the American automotive industry — was struggling with new, more stringent EPA emissions regulations. The solution most carmakers adopted was the two-way catalytic converter, which combined oxygen with carbon monoxide (CO) and unburned hydrocarbons (HC) to produce carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O). Early catalytic converters severely restricted the free flow of exhaust, killing performance and fuel economy in the bargain.
Because most cars from the 1970s ran carburetors instead of electronic fuel injection, their air-fuel ratio was wildly imprecise, and caused early catalytic converters to overheat, to the point of igniting flammable materials under the car.
Honda’s approach was different. It developed a four-cylinder engine with reduced emissions without requiring a catalytic converter, called “Compound Vortex Controlled Combustion” or CVCC, where the Civic originally got its name.
Americans loved the Civic, but it was a very small car. Honda aimed to build a companion to the subcompact, selecting the name “Accord” reflecting “Honda’s desire for accord and harmony between people, society and the automobile.”
The Accord was the first vehicle from a Japanese manufacturer to be built in an American factory, when the Accord rolled off the assembly line at the Marysville, Ohio plant on November 1, 1982.
Honda had been building Gold Wing motorcycles there since 1980. Honda has produced more than 10.7 million Accords in North American plants for both North American and global distribution.
It became the very first U.S.-built automobile from a Japanese manufacturer to be exported overseas when Honda shipped Ohio-built Accords to Taiwan in 1987. American-built Accord Coupes shipped to Japan in 1988.
The original, two-door hatchback Accord felt big in 1976, but today, its wheelbase is smaller than a 2016 Honda Fit.
“The introduction of the first Accord in June 1976 was significant for both American Honda and the automobile industry as a whole,” reads a release marking the 40th anniversary. “For Honda, then known mainly for its motorcycles and its economical Civic, Accord was the first step toward becoming a full-line automaker and a major presence in the U.S. automobile market.
“For the industry, the Accord defined a new kind of car – a practical automobile that combined economy and value with sporty style and spirited performance.”
See below for images of Accords through the years, and at the bottom are two infographics from Honda – one of which includes this nugget: more Millennials have chosen the Accord over any other mid-sized sedan.