The Honda Accord Turns 40 and Everyone is Invited to Party

First-generation 1976 Honda Accord
First-generation 1976 Honda Accord | Source: Honda

We’ve come a long, long way together, through the hard times and the good. I have to celebrate you baby, I think it’s about time to praise you like I should.

It may sound like a Fatboy Slim line from a mixed CD you made for a budget-friendly summer road trip in high school, but after 40 years of getting hard-working, middle-class Americans to and from the office, it’s time to celebrate all that the Honda Accord has done for us.

The Honda Accord has been around since June of 1976, when a gallon of gas cost 59 cents, and as threats of another oil crisis hovered on everyone’s lips, the then-fuel-efficient three-door hatchback jump-started one of the greatest automotive success stories in history. No one thought the little Japanese compact would stick around, and rather thought that once fear of the oil crisis dissipated from thought Americans would go back to driving full-sized automobiles once more.

1991 fourth-generation CB7 Honda Accord
1991 fourth-generation CB7 Accord | Source: Honda

But while oil prices remained low, America’s love affair with the Accord endured, and over the course of the next four decades and nine generations, Honda has sold more than 12.7 million units. This meant opening a number of U.S. plants in order to slake our insatiable thirst for the vehicle, which to this day is still consistently in America’s top-10 best sellers. For as pedestrian as it may appear, the Accord has proven time and time again to be a segment-defining product, and is famous for being a cornerstone for automotive reliability, durability, and fuel efficiency many times over.

Listed on Car and Driver’s list of “10Best” a record 30 times, a feat Honda says remains “unmatched by any other automobile of any type,” the Accord owes its success almost entirely to baby boomers. Many of these people handed their old Accord down to their kids when they came of driving age due to low insurance costs, solid safety ratings, renowned reliability, and the fact that the car was more than likely already paid off. Decades later, these kids are now having their own offspring, causing the Accord to retain its title as the top-selling midsize sedan for buyers under 35 for five of the past six years.

“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. “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.”

Honda Accord: Then and Now
Honda Accord: Then and Now | Source: Honda

On November 1, 1982 the Accord became the first Honda and first vehicle from a Japanese automaker to ever be manufactured in America and retains its title for continuous production at the original Marysville, Ohio plant 34 years later. While other plants in Ohio, Alabama, Canada, and Mexico have helped produce more than 10.7 million models for both local and global markets, the old Marysville plant up the road from me still remains the cornerstone for the revered badge.

Interestingly enough, the Accord was also the first American-made Japanese automobile to be shipped overseas, with Ohio-made versions hitting Taiwan dealerships in 1987, followed by the landmark exportation of the U.S.-made Coupe model to Japan in March of 1988.

2016 Honda Accord Touring
2016 Honda Accord Touring | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat

With its modest beginnings as a hatchback rocking a wheelbase that’s shorter than the modern day Honda Fit, today’s tech-filled, mid-sized award-winning lineup of Accords are a completely different animal entirely. Honda is right on when it says that the Accord has “a legacy of leadership unique in the industry.” It’s a statement that has been cemented by the fact that three consecutive years of sales from 2013 to 2015 made it the top-selling car in America for individual car buyers.

Outside of rocking tech goods like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, the Accord also features the Honda Sensing suite of advanced safety and driver-assistance technologies. While the majority of these creations help modern drivers avoid severe collisions, it’s the fact that the Touring version of the Accord drove itself 90% of the time we had it on the freeway that amazes us.

But back to closing up our nerdy history lesson, because most people still don’t know why this car is even called the Accord: According (ha!) to the automaker, the name was initially chosen due to “Honda’s unremitting effort to achieve ‘accord’ between people, society, and the automobile through advanced technology.” Back in 1976, Honda was primarily revered for its motorcycles and a pipsqueak of a subcompact called the Civic, and that was about it. When the Accord launched that year, it marked the first of many steps Honda would make toward becoming a full-line automaker and the presence it created for itself in the American automobile market today.