Honda dealers got a glimpse Saturday of the first ad for the upcoming Passport, the brand's sturdy crossover geared toward off-road adventures.
Honda packed the Passport with a 280-hp engine and off-road capabilities that the company says will make it as comfortable on sandy trails as it is on smooth pavement.
"We debuted the Passport commercial. We let them be the first to see the commercial, and we got a really good response for it," Susie Rossick, assistant vice president of Honda national and regional marketing, said after the brand's make meeting. "Afterward, a few dealers came up and said, 'That was awesome.' So we're happy with it. It's the kind of commercial that gives me the chills every time I watch it."
Rossick said the spot has an outdoorsy feel. The public will see a version of it on espn.com when Honda does a takeover of the homepage on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 3. A fuller launch of the Passport campaign will occur April 1, when dealers are expected to have enough inventory.
"We're the only company that can say this: 'It's your Passport to adventure.' So we're taking full advantage of that and showing how it can go over just about any terrain comfortably," Rossick said.
The Passport will fill a hole for consumers who wanted something bigger than the compact CR-V, but not as large as the three-row Pilot. Honda also found that some customers were looking for a vehicle more rugged and more capable than the CR-V.
Honda has built a legacy with its household-name Accord and Civic sedans. But 2018 marked a sea change, as the brand sold more light trucks than cars in the U.S. for the first time.
The 2018 Accord faced challenges in lease-heavy markets, and Accord sales dropped by 9.8 percent last year. Civic sales fell 14 percent.
But dealers were in good spirits after the meeting.
"They have the incentive alignment right, and they got the production scheduled properly," said Dave Conant of Conant Auto Retail Group, which has four Honda stores in California. "All of the things that were troubling us last year have been resolved. Honda is doing a great job of listening to their dealers."