There has been a lot of, well, criticism, of Honda on these pages lately, including allegations that Honda had lost it. So far, more that fifty of the Best & Brightest offered advice on how to save the company from certain annihilation.
Today’s Nikkei says “domo arigato gozaimashita” for all the support, and runs a different story: “Honda Motor Co. has emerged from the economic turmoil at the head of the pack, thanks in good part to a nimble production network that can meet the latest consumer preferences at relatively low cost.” Here is why.
According to the Nikkei, Honda retooled its U.S. production operations in a mere six months last year, responding to the sudden demand for smaller vehicles. As the chart shows, the realignment translated into a substantial share of the U.S. subcompact market.
It is also the reason for Honda being “the only major Japanese maker likely to score a net profit” in the current fiscal year, says the Nikkei.
Capacity utilization rates at some facilities have been boosted by as much as 20 percent. In the current fiscal year, which ends March, Honda will most likely report an overall utilization rate of 79 percent, highest among Japan’s three largest automakers. In the industry, anything above 80 percent utilization is considered healthy. Given the worldwide capacity utilization, estimated to be between 50 and 60 percent, 79 percent are short of a miracle.
Honda can make small and large vehicles on the same production lines. All it needs is a quick change of welding pieces, paint nozzles and other components.
Not only the Nikkei is impressed with Honda, the stock market likes Honda as well. At the time of this typing, Honda’s stock (HMC) changed hands for $36.90 at the New York Stock Exchange, eclipsing its pre-carmageddon highs.
Honda may have “ugly styling highlighted by uglier front grilles; a hybrid system that simply isn’t as advanced and effective as Toyota’s; a bloated Accord; no new direct injection engines; lots of muddling about future EVs; and a misplaced optimism about fuel cells,” as Edward Niedermeyer wrote it.
However, Honda’s stock chart, a market capitalization of $67.7b, and a near-pornographic P/E of 47.92 on the other hand are a sight to be seen. Maybe you shouldn’t have bought the Insight. But you would be very pleased if you would have had the foresight to buy the Honda stock in December of 2008. You could have doubled your money.
Or, looking at the chart and all that’s wrong with the company, maybe it’s time to short HMC?