As Dave Gardner takes the helm of Honda's U.S. auto division during a global crisis, the automaker is working to balance production capacity with demand, manage important product launches and contribute to the COVID-19 fight.
Gardner, a three-decade Honda veteran and most recently CEO of the automaker's Canadian operations, is walking into a rapidly evolving situation.
With extensive North American capacity, Honda initially cut auto production of 40,000 units with a suspension of its assembly and parts plants March 23-31. That was later extended and production was set to restart May 11 at eight U.S. facilities in Ohio, Indiana and Alabama, plus others in Canada and Mexico.
As it was cutting output, American Honda's finance captive offered payment deferrals for existing customers and incentives for new buyers, including special interest rates for certified preowned vehicles, and 90 days to first payment for all new Hondas and Acuras. Dealers were also given payment deferrals and fee reductions.
The company also put the majority of its salaried and support workers on unpaid furlough for three weeks — two in April and one in May. Honda cited "the unprecedented economic impact of the fast-changing COVID-19 pandemic," and the need to align product supply with the steep fall in consumer demand across North America.