Honda dealers call it "kissing the ring."
Times have been so good for Honda that their make meetings usually run about 30 minutes and end with smiles. The only rancor involves getting larger allocations of product. But nearly every dealer shows up to pay tribute to Honda boss Dick Colliver, who has taken the franchise to record sales and dealer profits for three straight years.
This year, Colliver's agenda is straightforward. He wants the Accord to beat the Toyota Camry and earn the best-selling car title. He wants dealers to embrace the new customer service program. And he wants dealers to quit using questionable tactics in their local advertising.
"We have a shot at leadership with Accord," said Colliver, American Honda's executive vice president. "We're going to put more effort behind it, but not without protecting the brand. We're not going to throw money at it."
Honda's 36-month lease for $239 per month has no incentive money attached to it, he said. Were Honda to put money behind the car, it would be to reduce the down payment or the money factor.
Honda should reach 1.18 million units this year, a 100,000-unit gain, Colliver said. Most of that will come from the Element SUV, as well as a full year of the redesigned Accord and new Pilot SUV.
But while volume growth is important, keeping the value of the franchise high is paramount, Colliver said.
That's why he's pushing hard for dealers to be validated in the "Excel" customer satisfaction program. Unlike Ford's Blue Oval plan, there is no cash-back incentive for dealers to be involved; but dealers cannot go on incentive trips or be in the President's Club if they are not Excel members.
Honda also will crack down on dealers who use bait-and-switch or other dicey tactics in their local advertising. Dealers will be warned by phone, by letter and in person, before Honda yanks their advertising funds, which range from $90 to $200 per unit, said dealer council chairman Ralph Tucker, dealer principal of Honda Morristown in Morristown, Tenn.