LOS ANGELES -- American Honda may be No. 5 in sales in the United States, but its captive finance arm is No. 1 in an increasingly important arena: leasing.
In the first quarter, American Honda Finance lease deals accounted for more than 16 percent of all new-vehicle lease transactions industrywide, according to Experian Automotive. That led Toyota Financial Services, Ford Motor Credit and Nissan Infiniti Financial, which all had about 11 percent share of the leasing market.
"With Honda, there is a stronger emphasis and push on leasing products," said Melinda Zabritski, Experian's director of automotive credit.
As the economy rebounds, leasing is becoming a larger part of many automakers' finance portfolios. LeaseTrader.com predicts leasing could represent as much as 40 percent of the new-vehicle market by 2020, up from about 10 percent in the depths of the recession.
According to Edmunds.com, leasing represented 21 percent of all transactions in the first quarter of 2012, down from 24 percent in the first quarter of 2011.
Honda grabbed some share by not wavering in its commitment to leasing despite the Lehman Brothers collapse in 2008 and the 2011 Japanese earthquake, said Eric Lyman, vice president of residual value solutions for Automotive Lease Guide
"There always are consumers who will lease," he said.
Dealers respect Honda's commitment to leasing, says Art Wright, a Honda dealer in Lehigh Valley, Pa., since 1972.
"A lot of [third-party] sources are here today, then they go to the next hot model," Wright said.
"Honda has sold the whole idea of owner retention over the long haul with very competitive programs in the marketplace. Dealers have rewarded that attitude with their business."