EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier of version of this story inaccurately reported sales of the CR-Z coupe. The article stated the vehicle had been on sale for five months. It went on sale August 24.
LOS ANGELES -- For Honda, 2010 was shaping up to be a year of tremendous opportunity.
With Toyota in the midst of the recall mess and two of the Detroit 3 climbing out of bankruptcy, Honda Division was in a unique position to increase sales and seize market share.
It didn't turn out that way.
Instead of gaining on its rivals, Honda's U.S. retail and overall share are down this year. Honda brand sales are up just 4 percent through November, in a market that's up 11 percent.
"Honda is not riding the wave" of the auto recovery, says Lincoln Merrihew, managing director of Compete Automotive, a market research firm.
Some of that has to do with timing. Two crucial products, the Civic and CR-V, are in the final year of their product cycle, and the Accord is 18 months from a redesign.
But other problems -- such as declining buyer consideration, an outdated inventory system and a sliding reputation among younger car shoppers -- suggest a brand that has lost some of its mojo.
Some missteps are easily reversible. For example, Honda held back production and inventory in February when the economy began to show signs of life, giving an opening to more aggressive manufacturers.
John Mendel, American Honda executive vice president, says a lull in Honda's product cadence arrived with the recession. Combine older products with Honda's aversion to discounting -- at a time when people were looking for deals -- and the division failed to keep pace with brands willing to dicker and sell volume to commercial fleets.