A Discovery In Disguise: The Honda Crossroad

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Honda wanted to get into the 4X4 SUV game in the early 90s so they used their stake in Rover Group to slap some badges on a Discovery and called it the Crossroad.  It was a huge failure for Honda but provided vindication for Land Rover.

The story starts in 1979 when Honda decided to take a stake in British Leyland and assist to improve their car division.  British Leyland became the Rover Group in 1986 and the partnership continued until 1994, when the Rover group was bought out by BMW.  Honda provided lots of expertise in manufacturing and engineering for the Rover Group and most of the Rover car models of the 80s and 90s were modified Honda’s or contained Honda engineering.  This allowed Rover cars to become somewhat successful and start to independently engineer vehicles towards the mid 90s.

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Honda figured it could use its stake in the group to get into the 4×4 SUV market as demand was starting to grow so in 1993 they made an agreement to rebadge the Land Rover Discovery and call it the Honda Crossroad.  Honda did not have any experience in the 4×4 SUV segment so they did not make any significant modifications to the Discovery.  The only modifications to the Discovery were the lights, badges and wheel center caps.  There was little thought and a lot of cost cutting put into the changes.  Even the Honda badge on the rear of the car was stretched so it could match the Land Rover shape.

Honda had high aspirations of selling 1,200 Crossroads per year through its Verno dealer network which boasted 400 stores.  The Crossroad actually sold terribly, where it only sold 171 in 1993, 620 in 1994, and 137 in its final year for a total of 928 sold.  In comparison, even with its tiny dealer network, Land Rover sold more Discovery’s every year.  Land Rover produced all of the Crossroads but they still felt vindicated knowing that the reason that the Discovery was more successful was due to the strength of their brand name.

The Crossroad is often listed in error as being marketed until 1998 and being killed off due to the sale of the Rover Group to BMW but the truth is that Crossroad was died due to its own failure.  The Crossroad was suffering in sales and even the facelift that was completed in late 1994 did not help to give it a boost.  The last of the models were marketed as 1995s and sold until the middle of that year.  Honda had learned a few tricks and developed the CR-V which was released just as the last of the Crossroads arrived in Japan.

Honda had an interest in getting the Crossroad to the US market as well and once again slapping a different badge on it.  This time they wanted to sell it under the Acura brand as an upmarket SUV.  The first fault in the plan was that American Honda wanted large volume which Land Rover was not able to provide.  Secondly, many Land Rover dealers in US had recently completed upgrades and up-fits in anticipation of the Discovery and were unhappy that their sales would be cannibalized.  The idea was dropped and no further development went into designing a stretched Acura badge

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The Crossroads have found a second life on the used car market and have been heavily exported to New Zealand.  The Land Rover Discovery is a popular model there and holds steady on pricing so the Crossroad is an opportunity to get the same product at a cheaper cost.  Most of the Crossroads that arrive in New Zealand get rebadged once again but this time back to Land Rover badges.  The Crossroad name was revived in 2008 by Honda but this time it was a front wheel drive based SUV with a 4-cylinder that was developed solely by Honda.  It suffered the same fate as the earlier model and was killed of in 2010.

[Photo Credit: Expedition Portal, Flickr]

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