Nick Bunkley
Nick Bunkley
Staff Reporter - Enterprise

Why Honda's John Mendel wants customers to buy a Treasury bond on wheels

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Shaky stock market got you jittery?

It may be time to take your money out of Google, Apple and Tesla -- and put it in Hondas.

Not Honda stock. Actual Hondas. They’re like Treasury bonds on wheels, with cupholders.

That’s basically how John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda, described the company’s products today. Mendel was responding to news stories saying Honda is struggling because its sales and market share are down at a time when many competitors are on the rise.

He said Honda wasn’t about to get pulled off the straight and narrow, a strategy he said worked well during the recession -- when Honda was growing its share and others were interviewing bankruptcy lawyers.

“In good times, people will take risks,” Mendel said. “And in times of crisis, they return to Honda.”

Mendel described Honda as someone “doing a yo-yo on an escalator.”

Uh, come again?

“At any one point, you’ll be higher or lower, but you’re growing overall,” he continued.

Mendel said, essentially, that Honda just doesn’t care what everyone else is doing. It has a plan that Mendel says is working, and it’s sticking to it.

Apparently all those ignore-peer-pressure, stay-in-school, don’t-do-drugs commercials back in the 1990s worked on Honda, at least.

Mendel didn’t name any names.

He didn’t even do the pretend-coughing thing and whisper “Nissan” when he said Honda would never make fun of a competitor after a tsunami knocks most of its production offline. He said Honda was holding firm, and anyone who wants to go get high (figuratively, I mean -- don’t do drugs, kids!) can buy somebody else’s car.

“We’re also not going to lose sight of what got us here, which is protecting the customer and being respectful of the competition,” Mendel said. “If that’s conservative, then we’re conservative.”

Mendel’s fundamental message was that Honda knows what it is and what it is not, which is more than some in this industry can say.

If that’s what you want in your next car, contact your investment adviser -- er, dealer -- today.

You can reach Nick Bunkley at nbunkley@crain.com. -- Follow Nick on Twitter

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