"It's kind of a shame, because the people who buy Crosstours -- oh, man, they love them," said Greg May, owner of a Honda store in Waco, Texas.
In a typical year, Honda wouldn't have to answer for a vehicle like the Crosstour. But the brand has been stuck in a sluggish growth phase, having gained just 1 percent in volume last year, while the overall industry grew 5.9 percent. Honda has posted better gains for the first two months of this year, on strong crossover sales, but rival Nissan Motor Corp., traditionally the No. 3 Japanese manufacturer in the U.S., outsold American Honda in January and February.
Honda builds the Crosstour at its East Liberty, Ohio, plant and is making moves there that cast doubt on the Crosstour's fate. The plant will soon add production of the Acura MDX crossover, which generates sales of about 5,000 a month, far more than the Crosstour's going rate. The MDX also sells at a higher price and likely generates more profit.
Meanwhile, Toyota Motor Corp. said it will halt production of the Venza, a wagon-style derivative of the Camry that competes against the Crosstour (and through the first two months this year has outsold it by more than 3-to-1).
Asked last week if Honda plans to do the same with the Crosstour, John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda, said, "Maybe that's news for another day."
He acknowledged that the market "is showing greater strength" for more traditional SUV-like crossovers, such as the CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Nissan Rogue. But he added, "We haven't given up on the Crosstour."
Over the last decade, Honda has launched new generations of some of the biggest selling nameplates in the industry. The Accord, Civic, CR-V and Odyssey are giants in their segments, and the new Fit now appears to be taking off after a troubled launch last year.
But it has misfired with a string of others -- the CR-Z and Insight hybrids, the Ridgeline pickup and the Element. Each came to market with great fanfare, peaked early then petered out. Most of the time, Honda has let those vehicles struggle without the sort of incentives that other manufacturers use to perk up demand for slow-selling nameplates. And in some cases, it has let vehicles go long stretches without redesigns.
The Element, launched in 2003 to appeal to young adventurers, never hit its target market. It remained largely unchanged until it was discontinued eight years later. The Ridgeline was introduced in 2005 as Honda's entry into the highly competitive pickup market. It then went nine years without a redesign. Production was halted last year, although a redesigned Ridgeline is due in 2016.