Honda is in the big leagues now.
"Once you cross the 1 million mark, the stakes are higher. Even though our product is outstanding, the competition suddenly became that much more intense, because now we're the target," Mason said. "Honda is bringing dealers into the process earlier, and our expertise is considered more valuable."
After the make meeting at the
NADA convention, American Honda Executive Vice President Dick Colli-ver said that dealers must control their selling expenses, which jumped 13 percent last year while sales increased 6 percent.
He predicted Honda sales this year will be even with the record 1,016,179 set in 2000. But with the market declining, Honda could increase its market share past 6 percent.
"We're coming out of the chute bullish," Colliver said.
As for incentives, Honda will not get into a cash-back battle, preferring to bundle options in special edition packages, as well as tactical lease and APR programs.
On the product side, Honda said it cannot provide more Odysseys to dealers until the Alabama plant starts production in the fourth quarter.
Although enthusiast magazines have criticized Honda for replacing the Civic's double wishbone front suspension with a strut-based version, dealers said the Civic still sells well.
However, Mason noted that Honda is starting to appeal to older buyers, even with entry-level cars such as the Civic. "Honda stoked the pipeline with high-quality, inexpensive products, and grew up with those buyers. We need reassurance that Honda is going to do that again with Gen X and Gen Y. We heard that the product planning department is listening."
Among the possibilities: the Model X sport-utility, which debuted at the Detroit auto show in January and would slot above the CR-V in the lineup.
Mason also expressed gratitude that Honda has not jumped whole-hog into the e-commerce world.
"Other manufacturers have plunged into e-commerce with mixed results," Mason said. "Honda has cautious, thoughtful strategies good for the dealer and manufacturer."