By on February 3, 2009

Honda reported in with their sad sales numbers with unadjusted monthly sales down 27.9 percent. Fit sales were steady, up 5.9 percent. Accord and Civic took drubbings of minus 31 and minus 32 percent respectively, with the Civic Hybrid down 62 percent. Light truck sales were down 27 percent with the Odyssey minivan trailing an unusually heavy 38 percent hit. (The number one selling minivan nameplate just took a back seat to the rebate-stuffed Toyota Sienna.) Over on the Acura side, TSX buyers ignored TTAC reviews and sent sales up 16 percent, which comes out to a little over 300 cars. The more expensive numb-feeling, shovel-nosed sedan, the TL, was down 40 percent. The Acura CUVs got similarly neglected, down 46 percent. Needless to say, Honda’s management team is on the case. Well, someone’s case. (yes waay) reports that Honda’s laid off 706 temporary workers from its Lincoln, Alabama factory. “The company has said production at the plant will decline by 6,000 units amid a severe slump in global sales. Honda’s output in North America will drop by 12% to 1.26 million units in the current fiscal year ending March 31.”

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25 Comments on “Honda’s January Sales Down 27.9%...”

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    How many generations until:
    The Civic offers a V6?
    The Accord is an Avalon competitor?
    The Fit is started to bloat?
    Honda talks of bringing over a car to sell beneath the Fit?

  • avatar

    Why is it such a bad thing that Honda offers 3 or even 4 differently sized cars? BMW offers 4 different car lines, and they sell 20% of what Honda does in the US.

    Down 28% sucks, but at least Honda is picking up share. Share which Chrysler will never get back. And they did it without all the employee pricing plus plus plus B.S. that Chrysler and GM have been pushing.

    Given how Chrysler is making itself irrelevant, we may be back to the time when there are a “Big 4” carmakers — Toyota, GM, Ford and Honda.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    Well I don’t think 4 different sized cars is bad. I think what irks me is the constant bloat.

    Now in reality, does this matter? Who cares if a “right” sized car Honda makes is called a Civic, or an Accord, or a Fit — so long as it’s the right size and it’s on sale, why should I complain?

  • avatar

    Damn, sales down 28%, they just don’t get it, their management is a bunch of bumbling idiots, their workers are lazy, nobody wants these pieces of crap. We should encourage all of them to file for bankruptcy.

    That’s what everybody was saying with the detroit 2.x were down 25%. Where are the cries for the exec’s heads?

  • avatar

    Honda is winning. They are gaining big share in the recession, since the market is down more than 28% overall. They are taking share from all of the domestics.

    I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that their financial arm is in better shape too. My perception is that Honda tends to get a slightly better off class of buyer than other cars in that price range.

  • avatar


    It’s a relative scale of headhunting. They’re still “ahead” of the Det3. Maybe if Det3 went positive and Honda stayed negative, you’d get blame-switch, but not until.

  • avatar

    @ Justin Berkowitz

    Models growing in size allows a smaller model to be introduced underneath it, while (partly) justifying price on the existing model or even price increase.

    This ultimately helps resale of the previous models.

    1980s Camry is smaller than 2000s Corolla. Yaris goes underneath which is bigger than 1990s Corolla.

    1990s 5 Series is smaller than 2006 3 Series. 1 Series goes underneath.

    Anyway, it’s deliberate strategy.

  • avatar


    No, they’re not. Honda is running scared, just like the rest of them.

    Look where their sales are coming from too; in all likelihood they’re coming just as heavily from Toyota and Nissan (if not more) than the domestics.

  • avatar

    Rix is right. Look at the numbers — the entire industry is down 40% in January. So if you lost less than 40% (like Honda at -28, Nissan at -30 and Toyota at -32) you are gaining share. If sales are down more than 40%, as GM and Chrysler are, then you are losing share.

    That tells you that Honda is taking its share from the same 2 companies that are taking our kids’ tax dollars.

  • avatar

    Gaining market share with your least profitable vehicles is not exactly a positive story… I agree they are in a good position relative to the current economic environment, but this is hardly worth Rah Rah-ing over. Keep in mind how heavily dependent Honda is on US profits.

    Add that to Honda’s latest design language, *barf*, and it’s not a rosy picture. My first impression of the Insight was that Honda had outsourced their design studio to China; “Hi, I’m Dave” 3 bar grill + Prius? Bleh!

  • avatar

    Accord and Civic need a rethink.

    If the Accord is to remain at its current size, then the Civic should grow again, to fill the Accord void. The trunk in particular is too damn small. Both need richer interior materials, both should be offered in wagon variants. The current Fit “sedan” is more faithful to the Civic format, and might do well in North American markets.

    But the bottom line, is that the Accord and Civic require some degree of leadership by Honda. Some initiative that goes beyond market research, true innovation. A return to obsessive over-engineering is in order.

  • avatar

    I don’t think wagons are the solution for anybody. People in the US have demonstrated time and again they don’t want them. I thought the last generation Mazda6 wagon was about as good looking as a true wagon body style could get, but nobody bought it. The Dodge Magnum was a macho “muscle wagon” and that didn’t do much better.

  • avatar

    Acura is doomed. There’s just no room left in the entry-lux market for sucky, hideous also rans.

  • avatar

    Cars have been declining in price when adjusting for content, safety and performance.

    Unless cars with given names are enlarged and upcontented every generation the manufacturer cannot make that model’s price even stay close to increasing with inflation.

    For example:

    1988 Civic LX Sedan:

    Price in 1988 dollars: $10,050
    Price in 2008 dollars: $18,046

    2008 Civic LX Sedan:

    Price in 1988 dollars: $9,445
    Price in 2008 dollars: $16,960

    Despite substantial increases in features and size the Civic still hasn’t been able to keep up with inflation.

    Look at the 1988 Civic sedan price above and consider that a 2009 Nissan Versa sedan can be had for $9,990 (yes, absolutely stripped, but not compared to an ’88 Civic). In 1988 dollars the Versa costs $5,563, although in 1988 the Honda Civic cost $10,050.

    Considering that even the stripper Versa has more features and content than the ’88 Civic cars are less than half the price that they were 20 years ago.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    “I think what irks me is the constant bloat.”

    If today’s Civic and Accord were the same size as their 1980s ancestors and had the same rotten crash test results those things did, nobody would be buying them.

  • avatar

    “If today’s Civic and Accord were the same size as their 1980s ancestors and had the same rotten crash test results those things did, nobody would be buying them.”

    I had a 81 Accord 4 door. Jacking the car up to change a tire meant that the unibody flexed enough that opening a door while jacked up was a challenge because the door would stick. You had to pull real hard to get it open. Forget about closing it while up in the air. It was only about 5 inches longer in total length than the Fit. I would not be buying a car with the specs of a 81 Accord in 2009.

    Everyone gets hung up about the bloat. It’s just a car name that’s carried over. I’ve had 3 Accords, the 81, a 87 and currently a 98. It’s debatable if I would buy the current model. Honda biggest model is too big for me. Not that the Accord is too big. I have absolutely no attachment to the name even though I’ve owned 3.

    If I stay in the Honda family it will most likely be the Fit as my 1st choice and the Civic as my second choice. The Civic is bigger than my 87 Accord and the Fit takes up about the same space as my 81 Accord and is a much safer, roomier and better equipped vehicle than my 81 was.

  • avatar

    If today’s Civic and Accord were the same size as their 1980s ancestors and had the same rotten crash test results those things did, nobody would be buying them.

    This statement would be true for nearly every car out there and really highlights how much things have changed in the past 20 years for every car available in this country.

    Back in 1987 my parents bought their first Japanese car, an Accord LXi. We lived in Detroit and my father’s business brought him into daily contact with domestic manufacturers and suppliers. As a result, he kept driving Buicks and Oldsmobiles but after continuous breakdowns and our Regal literally bursting into flames in our driveway my mother decided to try something different.

    The Accord, at that time, was so far superior to anything you could get from a domestic manufacturer it was silly. I think the sportiest 4-cylinder sedan available from GM was the Pontiac 6000 or a Celebrity “Eurosport.” Anyone remember those fondly?

    These days, the cheapest cars on the market have safety and comfort features nearly unheard of back then even on the most expensive luxury cars.

    The Accord is no longer a design or performance standout, perhaps because everything has gotten better and they have been aiming for the middle ground for too long? Or, perhaps it’s because the others have been aiming at the Accord for so long that it now is the middle ground?

  • avatar
    jerry weber

    I would expect Honda is down, they are relatively expensive cars in a competitive recession era. However, the cars they do sell make money and they don’t have to fire sale them. Their biggest loser in my opinion is Acura. It was the first Japanese luxury car in the US and may be the first out. Style and small cockpits puts them at the end of the luxury line up. When you have front wheel drive and your competitors have rear wheel drive, how do you end up with smaller interiors? Honda will not go away as they always seem to have something “hot”. Today it is the Fit. Think about it, for about the price of a chevy hhr, or chrysler pt cruiser, you get a better performing and larger hauling vehicle with much better fuel economy. Take a look at sales of small wagons.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    My folks had the 1982 Accord sedan – about 2000lbs, 1.7L 71bhp, 3 speed automatic. Nice car at that time.

    A current Smart ForTwo has the same 71bhp but weighs >300 lbs less. And barely missed being one of TTAC’s Ten Worst.

  • avatar

    Only 3 makes had higher Jan sales – mainly due to major new vehicles making their debut. Of the big 5 Honda had the lowest sales decline – which is not much to brag about – but their sales did not drop 40-60%. Honda also does not rely on 50% of their sales to rental fleets like the D3. There is no profit in these sales versus Honda’s very high retail sales numbers and much lower discounts. Honda also has been much tighter on credit than the D3 where they are suffering b/c many of their retail customers were credit risks.

    Acura is muddled in the same mess Honda put it in in the mid 90’s when they could not follow a specific strategy.

    I see some bright spots coming with the new Insight – sub $20k parallel hybrid that will outsell the Civic hybrid 10 to 1. The diesel Ridgeline and Pilot may also create a nice spike in SUV sales.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Re: Bloat….my $0.02 worth….

    the B&B and contributors on this site are always talking about the value of Brand. So, what is and Accord? In the 80’s it meant smart, a recognition that a simple, efficient 4-door small sedan could be a comfortable daily commuter. In the early 90’s (IMHO the ultimate Accord), it meant the same thing, mostly, in a slightly larger package, and they sold like mad. Does Accord mean the same thing now? Like Roland Deschain says, the world has moved on. But does that mean the Accord should move with it? A problem is the staggered cycle of the product line launches. When Honda does a redesign of the Civic, the make it larger, oops, they cannibalize Accord sales. Accord redesign comes up, well, the can’t exactly keep it the same size, or God forbid put it on a diet, because it will cannibalize Civic sales. The only way to go is upsize, until you get to a situation like the ’73 Mustang, where you either effectively end the nameplate, or you go smaller.

    And once you stick another model under the Civic, well, you can’t go smaller there, either.

    Or maybe they can. Since the Fit is not a true sedan, they could reverse the cycle at the next generation of the Civic a bit. That would leave them room to reduce the trend and when the Accord comes up for the next-gen, it could go smaller, also.

    Actually, this recession and the oil-shock that jump-started it may be a watershed moment in car design. Hard to imagine that the next-gen of ANY car will be larger, especially with the Politburo of the People’s Republic of California dictating air and mileage mandates for the rest of America. (Why they just can’t mandate vehicle use in their own state and leave the rest of us alone, I don’t understand. But that’s for another day’s rant….)

    Too bad that GM’s Saturn Astra (nee Opel)was a car somewhat ahead of its time, and under-engineered interior wise (no center arm rest? WTF?) that is the size paradigm for the next-gen of “midsize” cars, methinks. Haven’t looked it up yet, but I bet it is within fractions of the size of the late-80’s Accord…..

  • avatar

    To me, Honda Accord has meant “smart fuel-efficient mid-sized car.” As mentioned, the paradigm of what a mid-size car has grown over the years (at least in the U.S., as you can see by comparing our Accord to the Euro accord aka Acura TSX). Of course, the growth in engine cylinder count and horsepower has been enormous over the past 20 years as well.

    I had a rental Accord a few months back (4 cyl. auto) and thought the engine was more than adequate for my needs and was nice and quiet. When did we decide that our family cars require 250+ horsepower? I think my ’87 LXi had 120 hp but weighed substantially less… again, about the size and performance of today’s Civic I would imagine.

    As for the Astra, it was a real disappointment to me. The interior was very plain as is he exterior of the 5-door model (usually my body style of choice). Also, the car is quite heavy and felt sluggish even with a manual transmission. Worse, the price seemed high and the fuel economy actually slightly worse (!?) on the freeway than the larger Aura 4-cyl/5-speed auto sitting next to it on the lot. No wonder it has been a sales flop.

  • avatar

    If today’s Civic and Accord were the same size as their 1980s ancestors and had the same rotten crash test results those things did, nobody would be buying them.
    Fit sales are up.

    Also metallurgy has improved, welding techniques have improved, designs have improved, airbags are standard, etc etc.

    If Honda decides to produce a 1800 pound car, it would be safer by a wide margin than an 80’s civic.

  • avatar

    Mark MacInnis

    I think Britain’s civic type R is based off of the Fit already, but I like your idea of making the change span the entire model line. Sell the Fit as a hatchwagon, the civic as a coupe/sedan and the insight as a hybrid. Hopefully they could save enough money on the platform sharing to make the Insight the luxury car that it’s transmission demands (I’m really trying to be charitable about the CVT thing, because really they should burn them all).

  • avatar

    I think it’s very interesting on what’s going on with the card industry and with Honda from what we here is struggling in the industry. I myself have been looking for a job and just got an offer through Career Builders with Honda interested in me for an interview next week. I have pasted a copy of the email below. Whoever reads this email you decided for yourself on what to believe. From what they claim business is booming????


    Congratulations! We have reviewed your online resume and we like what we see. You are invited to interview with Honda of Ocala for a position as a Sales Representative.

    Interviews will be at the dealership on: Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday,
    Feb 9th, 10th, or 11th, between 10 am and 5 pm. Please view the information below and contact me by email to schedule your interview.

    Honda has a great lineup of fuel efficient cars and trucks, including hybrids, which are the hottest vehicles in the marketplace. This strong brand of fuel efficient autos, is highly respected as the industry leader in today’s automotive market. While others in our industry may be cutting back, Honda of Ocala needs additional associates to handle their sales traffic.

    New management has created an exciting environment at our store, with special events and a tremendous advertising campaign. The sales team is expanding to handle additional business. Our goal is to provide customers with an excellent purchase and ownership experience. Our friendly and courteous sales staff makes car and truck buying fun. This creates the perfect place to begin a new career in the fast-paced and rewarding auto industry.

    Honda of Ocala is seeking enthusiastic, self-motivated individuals to join our team working in the New and Pre-owned Sales Department.

    You bring a great attitude and we will provide you with the best training in the area to help you get off to a great start in your new career. Our new sales associate expected first year earnings is $40,000 to $60,000, with a generous pay plan that includes salary plus commission, bonus, and manufacturer incentive compensation.

    Previous experience in one of the following is a plus, but not required:
    • Sales/ Customer Service
    • Retail/ Hospitality
    • Finance/ Internet Sales
    • Management/ Marketing

    Honda of Ocala offers:
    Salary while you learn your new profession
    Extensive training program
    Full benefit package with Medical and Dental plan choices, 401K and more
    Employee Discount Purchase Program for you and your family
    Paid Vacation
    A great place to work with advancement opportunity


    Honda of Ocala
    1800 SW College Rd.
    Ocala, Fl 34472

    Rosie Moore
    Human Resources Manager
    Sales Staff Solutions Inc.

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