TAKANEZAWA, Japan — Honda Motor Co. is boosting output of its popular Fit small car to meet U.S. demand when the next generation debuts there this fall.
Production allotment now stands at 60,000 units but will increase to 80,000 when the redesigned Fit arrives Oct. 1, says John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda.
"We had planned to sell between 30,000 and 40,000 and figured out very early that wasn't enough, so we increased production to 60,000. That still wasn't enough," Mendel said here last week on the sidelines of a ceremony for Honda's new FCX Clarity fuel cell vehicle.
"We've ramped it up closer to 80,000 this year," he said. "That starts in October."
The base sticker of the current 2008 Fit, including the destination charge, is $14,620. The car gets 34 mpg on the highway and 28 in the city.
The expansion was planned before the current surge in gasoline prices spurred a wave of demand for small, fuel-efficient vehicles, Mendel said. But the timing couldn't be better. Dealers are scrambling to get more Fits and Civics, and some are facing waiting lists.
For the first five months of the year, U.S. sales of the Fit were up 64.0 percent to 29,784 vehicles. And that's before the updated model even arrives.
Global capacity for the Fit is more than 500,000 units. All U.S. units are imported from Japan, where the new generation is already in production. Japan is still making the first-generation Fits for the United States but will phase that out before October.
"We compete with the rest of the world for Fit production," Mendel said. "We're continuing to try to increase capacity wherever we can from around the world to bring it in."