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Honda Motor Co.’s newest version of the Civic, a model that has been a foundation of the automaker’s U.S. sales for decades, flopped in tests by Consumer Reports, failing to win the magazine’s coveted “recommended” status.

The 2012 Civic scored 61 in Consumer Reports’ evaluation, down from 78 for the previous Civic, according to a review in the September issue published Monday.

The car, on sale since late April, scored poorly because of a decline in agility and interior quality, choppier ride, longer stopping distances and more road noise compared with the last Civic, the magazine said.

“While other models like the Hyundai Elantra have gotten better after being redesigned, the Civic has dropped so much that now it ranks near the bottom of its category,” David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports’ auto test center in East Haddam, Connecticut, said in an emailed statement.

Honda models since the 1980s have consistently ranked among the most frequently recommended by the magazine published by Consumers Union, a nonprofit group.

Carmakers seek favorable evaluations from the magazine as its reviews are considered the most objective because of policies of accepting no advertising and buying every vehicle it tests.

“We disagree with Consumer Reports’ findings,” Honda said in an emailed statement. “In virtually every way, the completely redesigned 2012 Civic is a step forward.”

Civic is Honda’s second-biggest-selling model in the U.S., after the midsize Accord sedan. Sales of the car this year through June dropped 14 percent to 127,102 from a year ago. Hyundai Motor Co.’s rival Elantra compact in the same period had a 79 percent jump in U.S. deliveries to 103,301.

The poor ranking for Civic, sold in the U.S. since 1973, compounds problems for Honda.

The company has had limited inventory of its new Civic line since the March quake, which limited supplies of electronics and other components needed for the new model. Production of the car at Honda plants in the U.S. and Canada remains at about half of normal volume because of parts shortages.

Honda’s showing in Consumer Reports came after the company’s Greensburg, Indiana, plant, one of its factories that produces the Civic, received a quality award in June from J.D. Power & Associates. The award was part of the research firm’s new-car quality survey.

Honda said net income in the quarter that ended June 30 plunged 88 percent to ¥31.8 billion from a year earlier as a result of quake-related production disruptions and a rise in the yen’s value that cut earnings from exports.

Toyota Tohoku hybrids

KYODO

Toyota Motor Corp. will export to North America small hybrid cars it plans to build from the end of this year at the plant operated by group company Kanto Auto Works Ltd. in Iwate Prefecture, sources said Tuesday.

Toyota eyes a price of ¥2 million or lower, cheaper than its Prius hybrid, so that exports can withstand the competitive disadvantage stemming from the strong yen, the sources said.

The carmaker aims to meet its annual domestic production target of at least 3 million Toyota and Lexus brand vehicles by selling the new hybrids in North America, they added.

The small hybrid will have a 1.5-liter engine and be designed to run more than 40 km per liter of gasoline.

The production of the fuel-efficient vehicle in Iwate’s Kanegasaki is in line with a plan by Toyota to make the Tohoku region its third major domestic manufacturing base, after the Chubu region, which surrounds Nagoya, and Kyushu.

The company also says it wants to help rebuild Tohoku, which was hit hard by the March earthquake and tsunami, through the production of the new hybrids.

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