Honda CEO Fukui: No recession in U.S., despite soft sales in spots

Honda Motor Co. CEO Takeo Fukui
TOKYO — Recession is in the eye of the beholder. And to Honda Motor Co. CEO Takeo Fukui, the U.S. market isn't in one.

"It is true that in states like Florida and California, the numbers are going down," Fukui said here last week. "But if you look at the U.S. as a whole, I don't think we're seeing a recession. There are still good business opportunities. There is firm demand for automobiles."

Fukui's optimistic outlook clashes with the gloomy vision of Nissan Motor Co. CEO Carlos Ghosn.

Just days earlier, Ghosn told reporters in Seoul that the U.S. auto industry is in recession, even if the overall economy is not. High material costs are particularly painful, he said.

Honda's soft sales in Florida and California are being offset by record sales along the East Coast and in the Midwest, Fukui said. Those markets show "no signs of shrinking."

The market is shifting, he added. That shift, away from big SUVs and toward cars, is especially good for Honda because of its strength in fuel-efficient vehicles, Fukui said.

In January, combined sales of Honda and Acura Division in the United States dropped 2.3 percent to 98,511. The overall market fell 4.2 percent.

Incentives are slightly higher than in 2007, but Fukui said Honda doesn't plan to increase them to help sell cars in what's expected to be a tough year.

"Rather than relying on increased incentives to sell vehicles," he said, "it's more important to offer customers good products at the appropriate price range."

You can reach Hans Greimel at hgreimel@crain.com

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