LOS ANGELES -- Although Honda delayed the launch of its redesigned Civic until February, it is sticking with its five-year cadence on other models, a top U.S. executive says.
"A five-year cycle is our benchmark, but there may be some changes," said John Mendel, American Honda executive vice president. "Some cycles may even be shorter."
Honda re-evaluated its upcoming Civic when the financial markets imploded in fall of 2008. The car was deemed too large and too upscale, which led to major changes that pushed back the launch. The current Civic debuted in September 2005.
But all other vehicle programs are on the usual schedule, Mendel said.
The redesigned CR-V compact crossover, based loosely on the Civic platform, is still scheduled for a late-summer 2011 debut. That would keep it on Honda's five-year cycle.
The Accord also remains on its normal schedule. The current model got a minor midcycle change in August, three years after its debut. Mendel indicated that the redesigned Accord will arrive as planned in fall 2012.
He said trying to wring an extra year out of existing platforms and components has to be decided several years in advance. Mendel called such a move "dangerous" and equated it to market timing by stock speculators. If the product goes stale, he said, big incentives are needed to move the metal.
Mendel said Honda "still believes in grow or die" as a sales strategy. But whereas predecessor Dick Colliver wanted the Honda and Acura brands to hit 2 million units before he retired, Mendel won't mention a target number as long as the economy is in turmoil. Colliver retired last year.
American Honda sales peaked in 2007 at 1.55 million, then dropped to 1.43 million in 2008 and to 1.15 million last year. Mendel said "1.5 million is a pretty good round number, but I won't say we need to sell 'x' units by 'x' date."
With 90 percent of its U.S. sales volume produced in North American plants -- and its new Greensburg, Ind., plant now cranking out Civics -- Honda is not looking to add North American plants.
"With Indiana on line, we have all the capacity we need for the near and midterm," Mendel said. "We have flexibility for market conditions. We are not going to create artificial demand."