Jay Joseph, vice president of American Honda's marketing division, said the brand is targeting Ridgeline sales to grow from about 35,000 per year to 50,000 based on the redesign and marketing.
"The knock on [the current model] was that it was too friendly," Joseph said during a marketing presentation last week. "Trucks need to have a little bit of a presence to them, and they need a little bit of physical heft when you walk up to them."
The first 60-second spot in a new ad campaign ran during an NBA Finals game featuring the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers last week. It features the Ridgeline, Passport and Pilot, along with Honda motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles, to emphasize the brand's rugged DNA.
"We'd like to get a bigger piece of the midsize-truck pie," said St. Cyr. He mentioned the segment-leading Toyota Tacoma, which sold nearly 250,000 vehicles last year, as a target competitor.
Although only three Honda light trucks are being featured in the new ad campaign, executives said the subcompact HR-V and compact CR-V crossovers are also being considered for the rugged styling treatment once those models are due for updates.
"We have a product plan that is appropriate for the market," St. Cyr said. "The market is looking for a certain feel of a vehicle, so obviously we'll play in that ballpark."
The vehicles, he added, already match the capability of competitors for light off-road activities. But their outward appearance doesn't reflect the vehicles' robust mechanicals and sophisticated all-wheel-drive systems. They are not rock crawlers, but most customers don't need that.