LINDSAY CHAPPELL

Honda factories will pour on steam this month

Automotive News | December 8, 2011 - 4:07 pm EST

If you want to see determination in action, watch Honda this month.

April was the last month this year we saw the brand sell 100,000 vehicles in the United States. Honda’s field sales force is now assuring dealers that December sales will hit 100,000, and the factory has put incentives on its big models to get that job done.

Most models will have 0.9 percent financing for 60 months, under the marketing banner of “Happy Honda Days.” Dealers are being offered additional incentives to sell 2012 Accords -- a model that has been outsold by Nissan’s Altima for the past few months.

OK, so year end sales are common across the industry, and point of fact, what brand isn’t cranking up the engine to push sales at the moment?

But it’s different for Honda. For Honda, this could be a big comeback to a lousy year. A smiley face on a year end sales report that execs would just like to file away and forget.

Consider the course of events: The March 11 earthquake and tsunami bring down Japanese production. The Japanese crisis crimps North American production.

Just as things were getting back in order, a flood in Thailand swamps Honda suppliers and interrupts North American factory output, again. And in the midst of all this, the company launches a new generation of its critical, big-volume Civic -- to thorny reviews.

That’s a lousy year.

Now Honda is telling dealers that for December, January and February it will be running its factories at 30 percent above prior-year levels (meaning pre-tsunami levels). That will give retailers something they haven’t had since last April: ample inventory. And it’s breathtaking what a bunch of car dealers can do with ample inventory.

The dealer network meets in Las Vegas next week to hear what Honda has in store for them next year. If it’s nothing else but uninterrupted factory output, it will be an improvement.

Lindsay Chappell is the Mid-South bureau chief for Automotive News.Lindsay Chappell is the Mid-South bureau chief for Automotive News.

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