Honda dealers had their annual love fest with the factory at their make meeting at the NADA convention, giving their loudest applause to a proclamation that Honda is staying out of the retail business.
'We're going to do what we do best: design, engineer, manufacture and distribute cars,' said Dick Colliver, executive vice president of sales for American Honda. 'Honda is not going to have an Auto Collection; we're not going to sell direct over the Internet, and we're not going to own or manage stores.'
David Stephens, president of Millennium Motor Cars in Plano, Texas, said a vast majority of dealers is satisfied with the direction of the company. That's especially true with Colliver's guarantee that the Honda Division will break the 1 million mark for the first time this year. U.S. sales for Honda in 1999 totaled 958, 887 vehicles.
'Market share, profit and sales are all good. They could supply us with more of the hot products, like Odyssey and Accord. But I'd say the mood is good,' Stephens said.
Perhaps the one downside was Honda's mention that it does not plan to get into the pickup market. Rumors had circulated that Honda wanted to build a modern version of the Chevrolet El Camino. But Colliver said such a vehicle is not in Honda's global plans.
'It's a question of where we put our resources. Honda likes to take a product it can modify slightly and sell worldwide. And a pickup really only is an American product,' Colliver said.
Such news dismayed Rick Case, a multiline dealer from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
'They have to get into the pickup market if Toyota and Nissan are. It's a big business,' Case said.
Dealers are breathing easier with the Civic in the final year of a five-year cycle. Until this current model, the Civic was usually redesigned every four years.
'It's made us feel the market pressures,' Colliver said. 'We have to increase our advertising and marketing to keep the product moving. We're not suffering, but we are seeing a difference in how the car sells.'
Colliver again cautioned dealers against marking up the S2000 sports car. The sticker price is $32,415, which includes the destination fee.
'I still get letters and phone calls from people who are angry about a dealer pricing it $5,000 to $10,000 over sticker. We can't enforce a price. We can't tell dealers that they have to sell for sticker. I can only ask them to look at the long term,' Colliver said. He noted that one dealer had a pang of conscience and refunded the overage he charged a customer.
Case has his own method. When an S2000 arrives, he calls everyone on the waiting list and holds a noon drawing by plucking a name from a hat. The winner pays sticker.