With sales of key products roaring, Honda Division dealers had little to complain about at their make meeting. But Executive Vice President Dick Colliver jumped in to acknowledge the flip side of that gold coin: Booming sales mean painfully tight inventories.
Colliver told the dealer meeting that American Honda Motor Co. Inc. is doing what it can to get more vehicles. The list of short-supply products includes the new Odyssey minivan, built only in Alliston, Ontario; Ohio-made Civic sedans and Accords; and CR-V sport-utilities.
Colliver told the group that Honda Division should see a 5 percent to 8 percent increase in sales this year over 1998, with sales reaching 930,000 cars and trucks. He said volume could go as high as 950,000, depending on how factory inventories hold up. Factory officials told some dealers that sales could reach almost 1 million this year.
One key issue is bringing the Canadian Odyssey plant up to full volume. The plant started production of the Odyssey only last year and will not have its second shift working until July, Colliver noted. Honda's factories in Ohio, which build the Civic, Accord and Acura TL and CL, long have been working to make incremental gains in their capacity.
After the meeting, Colliver said retailers also are worried about the availability of two completely new products: the upcoming S2000 sports car and Honda's radical hybrid vehicle, the V V.
Although the S2000 is envisioned as a low-volume image car to display Honda racing technology, Colliver says dealers are still eager to sell it. 'We're forecasting 5,000 sales for it,' Colliver said. 'And there are some allocation questions. The retailers don't want to leave anybody disappointed.'
At the same time, tight Odyssey supply is creating a problem at some dealerships. Colliver noted that customers have to wait three to four months to get the minivan.
'That's not ideal,' he said. 'We want to be able to shorten that. We know we could sell a lot more Odysseys. We could sell a lot more Accords. And Civic sales are still going up for us. But we're limited.'