Small cars key to Honda's goal
Walton: Without tsunami and recession, goal “wouldn’t seem like a big deal.”
A big jump in small-car sales is needed for Honda to achieve its target of 2 million annual Honda and Acura sales in North America by 2017, said Gordon Walton, Honda's dealer advisory board chairman.
Walton said four key volume products -- Civic, Accord, CR-V and Odyssey -- have room to grow, but are selling near or at the top of their segments. Meanwhile, a new plant in Celaya, Mexico, will start churning out 200,000 subcompact Fit sedans and crossovers next year.
Two million is "a big goal," the Walnut Creek, Calif., dealer said in an interview. "It depends on what the future of small-car development is. That's what's going to be key: how well we bring new products to market that create volume demand. The new plant for the Fit will be a shot in the arm."
Honda Motor finished 2012 with 1.6 million sales in the United States, Canada and Mexico. The Honda brand in the United States accounted for 1.27 million of the total.
Sales have dipped in recent years because of the economic crisis and the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami and Thai floods that wrecked Honda's supply lines.
"But if you go back to 2007 -- projecting where the industry was supposed to be going -- and you take the tsunami and Lehman out, how much of a stretch would 2 million be?" Walton asks. "It wouldn't seem like a big deal."
Walton says it will take more than the Mexico-built Fit and its crossover version to hit the 2017 target. Every product will have to contribute.
"It's not like we're doubling Accord sales," he said. "There are a lot of little things that will get us there."
Honda's status as a brand that appeals to young buyers will help fuel the sales increase, once Gen Y starts buying cars in earnest, he said of those consumers born in the 1980s and 1990s.
"It's not that Gen Y isn't interested in cars," Walton said. "It just has a different interest in cars. Gen Y is looking for a different experience, but they still need to have a car."
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