For Honda, it's coming down to the wire

It’s been a very tough sales year for American Honda. And it still could get worse.

Let’s be clear. The problems of a U.S. sales arm and its dealer network cannot begin to compare with the horror and tragedy of the Japanese parent company and its network of Asian suppliers this year.

But American Honda’s situation is hardly rosy. Short on inventory since the March earthquake/tsunami in Japan and more recent flooding in Thailand, American Honda has lost share and volume since May. Auto sales are down 5 percent in the first 11 months, and the status of being No. 4 on the U.S. sales list is gone.

A resurgent Chrysler has already blown by American Honda. Last November, it was up more than 100,000 units on Chrysler. This year, it’s almost 200,000 behind.

And December could bring fresh humiliation. Hyundai-Kia is breathing down Honda’s neck for the No. 5 spot.

The Korean automaker outsold its Japanese rival by 2,692 units in November and now trails Honda by just 5,000 units through 11 months, 1,042,055 to 1,037,028.

This year, Hyundai-Kia is on a roll, up 27 percent. American Honda has lost volume for seven straight months and announced this week its Thailand-caused supply woes won’t be solved until next year.

Analyst Jesse Toprak of notes that Hyundai-Kia traditionally closes out the sales year with a strong December.

“At this point in this race,” he says, “it’s advantage, Hyundai.”

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