NEW ORLEANS -- Honda Division is gunning for its best-ever year in 2014.
Honda told its dealers at the make meeting here that it wants to sell about 1.44 million units this year. That would represent a 6 percent gain over 2013.
The redesigned Fit subcompact hatchback that arrives in summer is expected to lead the gains, thanks to output now coming from Mexico and less pressure from Japanese-market demand. Honda projects an 18 percent sales gain for the Fit this year despite the summer launch. A Fit-based crossover will come too late in the year to provide a big lift.
John Mendel, American Honda executive vice president of sales, said Honda's goals are in line with its record of "consistent growth."
Mendel cautioned that automakers will have to exercise self-control with incentives at the end of the first quarter. Honda no longer will use stair-step volume bonuses with its dealers as a hidden incentive, Mendel said, saying that practice ended in mid-2012.
Erik Nelson, chairman of the Honda Dealer Advisory Board and owner of Lynnwood Honda in suburban Seattle, said the factory now uses so-called flex cash as a per-unit variable marketing fund, to be used as a dealer sees fit for his inventory. But the flex cash comes with guidelines for how much can be spent on which car lines, and if the funds are not spent, they disappear at month's end, Nelson said.
Honda also has been helping dealers' back shops with Express Service tools, training and teams that can improve dealers' throughput for 12-minute oil changes and minor services, Nelson said.
Also helping the back shop is Honda's new Service Connect app, to debut on the 2015 Fit, which issues service reminders through the car's telematics screen. The app is integrated into the stores' dealer management systems and service-drive software so drivers can book appointments through their telematics systems.
Another big step for Honda: a gradual phaseout of built-in navigation systems from its vehicles. Starting with the Fit, and cascading through the lineup as each model is redesigned, the center screen will be compatible with mobile-phone map and traffic functions, for the cost of a $60 app. Because some in-dash navigation systems cost more than $1,000, this should represent a huge savings for Honda buyers.