LOS ANGELES -- What with all the trouble at Toyota in 2010, this figured to be a banner year for Honda. But instead of taking advantage of its archrival's woes, the Honda brand has been losing U.S. market share while Ford, Chevrolet, Nissan and Hyundai make gains.
While that has disturbed Honda executives in Japan, American Honda sales boss John Mendel isn't overly worried. Mendel points out that American Honda, which includes Acura, has held onto its retail share this year and remains the same, steady climber it has always been -- a company that won't stray from its conservative strategy in exchange for a chance to grab market share.
"Spikes in our share tend to correlate to events where people count on Honda," Mendel said. "We're a safe harbor. People vote on the value proposition that Honda brings to market."
Mendel cites R.L. Polk numbers that show American Honda retail share, including Acura, increasing marginally in February and March. But the Polk numbers only reflect segments in which Honda competes. Left out of the calculation are segments such as full-sized pickups and SUVs. Meanwhile, TrueCar of Santa Monica, Calif., says American Honda's retail share held steady in March when taking into account all segments.
Still, the drop in overall market share is alarming. The Honda brand slipped from 9.9 percent in the first four months of 2009 to 9.4 percent this year. But the 2010 figures reflect a sharp uptick in many automakers' fleet sales, something Honda does not engage in.
It's not just the raw share figures that look bad, though. Cross-shopping data compiled by TrueCar and Compete Automotive show that Ford, Hyundai and Kia have all done better than Honda at luring customers from Toyota.
TrueCar analyst Jesse Toprak says Honda's conservative marketing in the early days of the Toyota crisis cost Honda/Acura a half-point of share from potential conquests.
"Honda has gotten the most benefit from Toyota's trouble in terms of conquests," Toprak said. "But when you look at consideration, the percentage change was actually highest for Ford, Hyundai, Kia, and then Honda."