Honda's make meeting at the NADA Show started with a celebration.
While U.S. auto sales fell 1.2 percent last year, Honda gained 0.3 percent, Henio Arcangeli Jr., senior vice president of the automobile division at American Honda Motor Co., told dealers. And profitability, which has become a major challenge at most auto retailers, rose 6 percent on average for Honda dealers, he said.
Honda had a record year for sales of certified pre-owned vehicles, a record year for light-truck sales and a record year for sales of electrified vehicles.
But the celebration was more than just a pat on the back. It was also a look forward. Arcangeli told dealers that Honda plans to keep its foot on the gas, moving forward with refreshed and redesigned products, additional support for CPO sales, new advertising programs, and a sustained commitment to dealer profitability.
Arcangeli said that while he expects industry sales to fall to about 16.8 million this year from just over 17 million last year, Honda still has room to grow. That will come from loyal customers and conquesting rival brands.
Honda's strategy is to defend its industry-leading car business while bolstering light-truck sales. Helping that effort will be the arrival this spring of the CR-V hybrid — Honda's first electrified crossover in the U.S.
Dealers were given a preview of a Honda advertising campaign that focuses on the rugged, off-road capabilities of its crossovers. The brand wants to get the message out that its light trucks are the real deal for outdoor adventures.
"We talked about our goals for the year, maintaining our car business, capitalizing on our truck business and preparing for electrification," Arcangeli, who will depart American Honda at the end of the month, told Automotive News after the meeting.
Ryan Gremore, president of O'Brien Auto Team in Normal, Ill., said dealers were heartened by Honda's product pipeline, support for dealer profitability and expansion of its certified pre-owned program.
While some dealers expressed hope for a stretched version of the three-row Pilot crossover and the development of an all-wheel-drive sedan, Gremore said Honda didn't make any commitments.
Nonetheless, he said, future product plans are strong for refreshed and redesigned models. "They've just got so much momentum," Gremore said.