ORLANDO, Fla. -- One round of applause after another could be heard through the closed doors at the Honda make meeting.
What was all the cheering about?
"Last year was the best in the history of Honda in terms of profitability," said Ron Tonkin, owner of two Honda stores in Portland, Ore.
According to Dick Colliver, chief of sales at American Honda Motor Co., overall dealer profits were up 20 percent in 2005 over 2004.
Honda division has a sales goal of 1.35 million vehicles this year, compared with 1.25 million last year. But there will be challenges, Colliver warned dealers.
"There will be a lot of pressure this year with regard to interest rates, competitive prices, oil prices and incentives," Colliver said. "But we'll do whatever it takes in terms of programs and marketing to keep our dealers competitive."
That pledge excludes cash rebates, he said.
While Honda dealers are delighted with the franchise, there is some grumbling.
Some say the Ridgeline pickup is priced too high and sorely needs a V-8 to compete.
"When someone comes in and sees this truck at $30,000 to $35,000, they can go many other places and get one cheaper with a V-8," said one dealer in California who did not want to be identified.
A Houston dealer, who also did not want to be named, thinks Honda should be growing as fast as Toyota.
"There is no enthusiasm at the company," he said.
But Colliver said he believes the Ridgeline is on the right track and that the company is not chasing Toyota. "We won't get into a sales contest with them," he said. "That is not our desire. Toyota is a giant to deal with."
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