Honda bets on redesigned trucks to boost U.S. sales

Conrad: The HR-V is going to bring Honda some customers it hasn't seen in the past.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Honda expects to beat last year’s 1 percent U.S. sales increase as it breathes new life into its truck lineup in 2015.

The automaker plans to sell between 70,000 and 80,000 units of the new HR-V compact crossover, which launches in spring, for the first 12 months “when it’s up and running,” said Jeff Conrad, general manager of the Honda division.

“It’s going to bring us some customers we haven’t seen in the past. Now we have an entry-level crossover,” Conrad said after Honda executives met with dealers Saturday at the NADA convention.

Honda’s U.S. truck deliveries rose slightly in 2014 in a light-truck market that expanded 10 percent.

Dealers anticipate that the HR-V will bolster Honda’s portfolio as “another key component in the all-wheel-drive platform,” said Jeff Hodge, president of Honda World Downey in Downey, Calif.

A profile view of the redesigned Pilot released by Honda this month. Photo credit: HONDA

The aging three-row Pilot SUV, a weak spot in Honda’s lineup as it lags the Jeep Cherokee, is getting an overhaul this summer, followed by the Ridgeline pickup. U.S. deliveries of the Pilot dropped 14 percent last year. The redesigned Pilot will be shown at the Chicago Auto Show next month.

“We’re going to make that into a core model, another leg of the stool,” Conrad said.

Honda launched a refreshed midsize CR-V crossover in October, beginning “a complete makeover in a very short amount of time of our truck lineup,” Conrad said.

But “we’re not taking our eyes off the sedan business,” as a refreshed Civic sedan is also expected this year.

Honda also told dealers to expect in April an expansion of its Honda Courtesy Car program to allow dealers to rent cars in addition to providing vehicles for service customers.

“Currently, dealers can’t rent to someone off the street,” Conrad said. “We’re modifying it to have more overall appeal.”

You can reach Jaclyn Trop at jtrop@crain.com -- Follow Jaclyn on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jaclyntrop

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