When Honda announced a special Civic Type R Limited Edition for 2021, we knew it would be a hot commodity the moment it became available. Just 600 cars would arrive stateside, with another 100 bound for the Great White North. A recent story by Automotive News Canada confirmed our hunch about the big-winged Civic’s desirability: The 100 units bound for the Great White North sold out in just four minutes.
The Civic Type R Limited Edition took everything we loved about the standard CTR—knife’s edge handling, tenacious grip, and prodigious power—shaved off 46 pounds and lathered on the exclusivity. Honda also dipped every CTR LE in gorgeous Phoenix Yellow paint in a nod to the Integra Type R, a perennial favorite for best front-wheel-drive car ever and a 2020 Bull Market List finalist.
When the cars went on sale May 21, Honda chose to offer the Canadian allotments through an online portal, rather than through physical dealers. All that 100 lucky folks had to do was plunk down a $1000 deposit and sit tight. What’s shocking is how fast it happened. In less time than it took to microwave my frozen lunch, Honda sold all 100 allocations for the yellow-hued, origami-shaped track monsters.
Online reservations are nothing new in the industry. Tesla essentially lives and dies by them (enter the Cybertruck), but to see an OEM with an established dealer network go the online route is noteworthy. Though this strategy has the added benefit of being socially distanced, we’re seeing a growing trend of enthusiast and high-performance cars shifting to this online-reservation approach.
“It continues to impress me that customers under the right circumstances are willing to commit sight unseen to vehicles and do so online,” says Andrew Tai, CEO and co-founder of Motoinsight, whose digital retail solution MotoCommerce Honda used for the online portal. “The consumer trends are always moving in this direction. We saw it all around us even pre-COVID. I think COVID accelerated the adoption of online purchasing experiences across demographics and automotive is not immune from that.”
While more customers are opting for online purchasing, there’s no question that a customer’s experience at a physical dealership remains essential: “I want to be very clear that we are not predicting [the end of dealerships] and everything goes online,” Tai continues. “This is just a trend where customers are doing more online. I think consumers ultimately want an in-store experience and there is an important role for the dealer to play.”