COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Honda can't keep up with orders for its light trucks -- which Executive Vice President John Mendel says is a sign of reviving consumer confidence.
“Light trucks seem to be growing pretty spry,” Mendel said here yesterday in an interview at the Moving Ahead sustainable-transportation conference. “We're very short of inventory on the light-truck side, whether it's Pilot or Ridgeline or Odyssey or CR-V.
“That seems to be growing for us and the industry. Demand seems to be stronger than the car side.”
Honda, including Acura, posted a 33 percent gain in U.S. truck sales in April compared with April 2009. Total Honda sales rose 13 percent last month. For the first four months, Honda's U.S. truck sales rose 13 percent, compared with a 12 percent gain for all of Honda and Acura.
Total U.S. light-truck sales rose 24 percent in April and 15 percent for the first four months, while sales of all U.S. vehicles improved 20 percent in April and 17 percent for the year to date.
Honda's U.S. truck inventories have been falling, too. As of April 1, Honda averaged a 42-day inventory of trucks, down from 47 on March 1. As a whole, Honda averaged a 56-day supply on April 1, down from 68 on March 1. Total U.S. light truck inventories stood at 53 days on April 1, down from 66 on March 1.
Honda's brisk truck sales and low inventories have allowed the automaker to keep incentives low. Mendel said Honda will stick with a policy of minimal incentives, despite archrival Toyota's incentives binge as it tries to counteract negative publicity from sudden-acceleration recalls.
Honda is using incentives for specific vehicles -- such as the Civic, in its fifth year in its current generation, Mendel said.
But, he said, “We don't do 0 percent, we don't do cash back, and that philosophy's not changing.”
Mendel said Honda is cautioning dealers not to overreact as sales improve from 2009. While dealers probably will have to hire more salespeople, he said, they shouldn't “staff for Saturdays” when peak shopping occurs, leaving them with excess staff at other times.
“We're saying don't compare yourself to the last day you felt good, which was last year. Try to compare yourself to where you were in April, May of 2007, 2006, and try to focus on that in terms of, if you're coming back, where should you be.
“Don't go silly. It feels good, but don't lose sight of the fact that we're not where we were.”