Although Honda managed to close out 2019 with a small sales gain after dialing up certain incentives, the brand and its retailers recognize that dealer profitability and vehicle affordability require specific ongoing partnerships, such as bolstering the automaker's growing certified pre-owned sales program and controlling costs through inventory management.
Dealers also have a wish list for product updates, particularly when it comes to light trucks, given that consumers continue to favor big utilities and pickups, said Chase Smith, chairman of the Honda National Dealer Advisory Board and president of Russell & Smith Automotive Group in Houston.
"This year, when we talk about planning and the manufacturers look at their production plans, I think Honda is a lot more realistic about a SAAR that's flat and slightly down," Smith said. "I think the biggest way that Honda is going to help us is velocity of inventory turn. And the way you do that is with correct planning," Smith said.
One area where Honda made significant changes last year — with significant payoffs — was by offering customers more value with its CPO program through warranty upgrades and some free services that had not been offered before, said Smith. That's good for dealers facing thin new-car margins and for consumers reeling from sticker shock.
"Honda had a record year last year in certified sales. They are continually forecasting certified sales to continually break records," he said. The factory has shown its commitment through its CPO advertising and financing programs, he added.
But there are things dealers would like from Honda, and some of that is on the product side. Smith said Honda dealers want more horsepower and rugged design in some of the crossovers, a larger three-row model to accommodate more storage space, plus an all-wheel-drive sedan and true pickup.
"All I can say is Honda has listened, and Honda is very good at listening to the dealer body and giving the market what it demands," Smith said. "So, I think there is going to be some pretty exciting stuff coming out from 2021 to 2025 that the dealer body will be pleased with, and can help us gain market share."