LOS ANGELES -- American Honda posted another sales decline last month despite North American assembly plants that were nearly back to full production.
The October sales drop was less than 1 percent. That was the smallest in a six-month skid following the March earthquake in Japan. The monthly plunges from May through August topped 20 percent.
Yet any hopes for gaining further ground may be short-lived. Honda has been forced to reduce North American production once again as supplies of crucial parts from flood-ravaged Thailand have been cut off.
Dealers are feeling "a bit snakebit but hoping for the best," said John Hawkins, president of Metro Honda in suburban Los Angeles.
"My inventories were down to the 20-days' supply range, and some models were even lower than that. I'm at about a 30-days' supply now, maybe a little lower than that."
He added: "We were hoping that November was going to be a catch-up month, and it seemed to be going that way. But the news (from Thailand) doesn't look good."
American Honda's 98,333 October sales were led by the Accord and CR-V, both models in the waning days of their lifecycles. Next month's scheduled arrival of the redesigned CR-V may be delayed several weeks because of the Thai floods, Honda said this week. The new Accord comes next summer.
The recently refreshed Honda Pilot crossover showed the largest percentage increase, up 53 percent. The Odyssey minivan continues to be a strong player, with sales up 5 percent.
However, the Civic, which was redesigned in April, continues to struggle. Sales were off 6 percent. Executives have said an interior redesign may come ahead of schedule in light of consumer criticism of the car's styling and cheap-looking materials.
Acura's 1 percent October gain was due to the entry-luxury TSX sedan and wagon. All other Acura models showed declines last month.
As a result of the Thai flooding, Honda inventories will be crimped through the rest of the fourth quarter, and perhaps into 2012. Honda also said this week that North American production in early November at least will be at about 50 percent capacity.
"As dealer inventories continued to replenish in October, we saw increased momentum over last month's sales," said John Mendel, American Honda executive vice president of sales. "We look forward to continued strong demand for our products, despite these continuing challenging times due to the flooding in Thailand and ensuing production limitations."
Earl Hesterberg, CEO of Group 1 Automotive, said last week that his dealership group's Honda inventories are improving.
Group 1 ended September with a 25-day supply of Hondas but was hoping to restore its stocks. Many of Group 1's Honda stores were almost out of popular models such as the outgoing Honda CR-V in late September.
Executives at Asbury Automotive Group and Group 1 said last week that they expect stocks to be back in shape in time for Presidents' Day sales in February and the start of the spring selling season in March.
Amy Wilson contributed to this report.