More stories related to Chicago Auto Show DETROIT – When the new ’06 Civic debuts this fall, expect it to recapture some of the love lost among the tuner crowd with the appearance of the ’01 model.

“We do care a lot (about pleasing the enthusiast crowd),” says Tom Elliott, executive vice president-American Honda Motor Co. Inc. “Honda’s always had a very good presence among young buyers. We lost a little of that with the ’01 Civic, mainly (on) the coupe side, which came across perhaps as a little bland.”

Current Civic not pleasing tuners.

Elliott believes the new Civic, which he calls “very different,” will remedy any styling misfire of the current-generation model that turned off younger buyers who like to customize the popular small car.

“The new coupe, we think, is going to address that issue in many ways, the styling in particular,” he says. “I think we’ll have a product that will appeal to the young buyer and to the aftermarket as well.”

Elliott also says Honda needs to create more variants of the Civic and the Accord, it’s two highest-volume products in the U.S., to keep demand for the models high.

Honda last year saw a dip in U.S. Accord sales, which Elliott blames on a typical ebb and flow of the coupe segment. The auto maker does not break out Accord coupe sales from sedan numbers. (See related story: Toyota, Asian Auto Makers Dominate 2004 U.S. Sales)

“We’re looking at (whether) we need another variation of each of those products to give us the same kind of volume we enjoy now,” says Elliott, noting the drop off in passenger-car sales.

“(Civic and Accord) are very important products to us, not just from a sales viewpoint, but a manufacturing viewpoint (to keep) our factories working on a 100% basis.”

Elliott says variants such as hatchbacks and station wagons would be “easy things to do,” but adds, “there may be new ideas as well, so we’re exploring what our options are and which ones might be best for us going forward.”

Elliott says a sedan and coupe are the only two variants on tap for the ’06 Civic.

Sources tell Ward’s the ’06 Civic will make its debut next month at the Chicago auto show, however, Honda will not confirm this information.

cschweinsberg@primediabusiness.com