By on August 21, 2014

2014 Honda CR-V EX-L AWDHonda sales are decreasing in a market that’s increasing, a fact to which Honda drew attention when the company’s U.S. sales boss called out the industry for short-term tactics that artificially expand the size of the market.

U.S. new vehicle sales are up 5% through the first seven months of 2014, yet sales at the Honda brand are down 1.3% and sales at Acura are down 1.8%.

The good news at Honda includes their lack of reliance on fleet sales, the strong loyalty-building resale values of their vehicles, and their lack of emphasis on incentives.

Yet lost in the overarching statement that says, “Honda sales are down,” are the sales figures displayed by their core models.

Sales of the best-selling Acura, the MDX, are up 55.5% through the first seven months of 2014. The MDX is nearly 20,000 sales back of the dominant premium brand crossover, Lexus’s RX, but it leads the Buick Enclave and Cadillac SRX and easily outsells the Mercedes-Benz M-Class and BMW X5. With RDX sales sliding slightly and Acura’s car division in the throes of undesirability (ILX and RLX) and major model changeovers (TL and TSX to TLX), the MDX’s strength is a true bright spot.

Over at the headlining Honda brand, the company’s three best-selling models are collectively up 3.1% this year. The Accord, Civic, and CR-V account for more than three quarters of the Honda brand’s U.S. volume, and sales of this trio are not less common this year than they were last year.

July sales of the Accord jumped 11.3%, taking the midsizer’s year-to-date tally up to 220,351 units, a 0.9% increase. Among America’s five top-selling midsize cars, the second-ranked Accord’s growth is slowest: Camry volume is up 8.3%, Altima sales are up 2.9%, sales of the Fusion are up 4.3%, sales of the Sonata are up 5.8%. But midsize sales overall have fallen 1.6% in 2014 as the Malibu, Optima, Passat, 200, defunct Avenger, and Legacy have all declined. The overall passenger car market has not expanded at the same rate as the Honda Accord, either, rising just 0.7% year-to-date.

Meanwhile, while compact car sales have risen just 1.2% this year, Honda Civic volume is up 3.1%. It is now America’s second-best-selling small car, having led the compact category in both 2012 and 2013. While sales of the Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, Volkswagen Jetta, Mazda 3, and Dodge Dart have fallen, Civic sales have risen.

Finally, the Honda CR-V is America’s top-selling SUV/crossover through the first seven months of 2014. The CR-V owns a much smaller portion of the utility vehicle market this year than last, however, as overall utility vehicle sales are up 17% in 2014 and the CR-V’s own category is up nearly 19%. CR-V volume has grown 5.9% year-over-year.

Simply put, Honda’s most successful models aren’t the models holding the brand back. As Acura will surely be helped to some degree by the new TLX, there is anticipated growth from Honda via the HR-V and a replacement for the aging Pilot, sales of which are down 19% in 2014.

Combined sales of the Odyssey, Pilot, Ridgeline, Crosstour, CR-Z, Fit, and cancelled Insight are down 13.3% in 2014, a loss of 28,192 units over the span of seven months.

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49 Comments on “Yes, Honda Sales Are Down, But Key Hondas Aren’t...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    When I think of Acura all I think is MDX, RDX. It’s articles like these that remind me of the ILX and RLX, “Oh, yeah, they make those too”

  • avatar
    Dan

    What is a key Honda?

    Picking up 18,000 Civics and CRVs in the low 20s while losing 20,000 Odysseys and Pilots and 12,000 TLs and TSXs in the mid 30s doesn’t sound like core model success to me.

    • 0 avatar
      billfrombuckhead

      Sour grapes from a fading company.

      • 0 avatar
        alexndr333

        Honda is a victim of its legacy – like most car companies. With Honda, they are forever associated with basic, reliable, long-term affordable transportation, with a dash of sport and lots of smooth operation. The Civic, Accord and CR-V are perfect expressions of this view – they are what people ‘expect’ of Honda and they are what people buy. But when Honda varies from the formula (Pilot, Ridgeline, CrossTour, Insight, perhaps even the Fit) people subconsciously say: “That’s not the Honda I know”. The same analysis can apply to Acura and every other mark. (As an aside and example, I would love Buick to bring over the Adam, but is it really a Buick?)

        • 0 avatar
          geeber

          The Fit has actually been pretty successful. It’s my understanding that sales were limited by production capacity and exchange rates. The new model, which is being built in Mexico, is supposed to address this.

          • 0 avatar
            alexndr333

            That would explain the reduced sales of the Fit. I agree that it seems to meet the Honda legacy well, but wondered if the slowing sales meant that the market thought otherwise.

          • 0 avatar
            petezeiss

            Best I can determine about the 2015 Mexico produced Fit is that “QA issues” have been delaying it’s distribution since April. Some larger metro markets have gotten deliveries but there isn’t a new Fit within 150 miles of me.

            Beside hard core Honda people like me and my wife who will willingly wait for a test drive, this can’t bode well for sales to those who are seriously cross-shopping with other small cars.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          I’d argue that the Fit follows the “Honda formula” to a “t.” Incredible interior packaging, light, efficient, fun to drive. My family has one of the first gen 2007 cars, I much prefer the simple lines and large windows of that model to the 2015. And they still haven’t ‘relaxed’ the highway gearing any on the stick shift cars, despite them gaining a 6th gear and having 130hp now. Go figure.

      • 0 avatar
        Thatkat09

        Fading? Thats funny. Honda is one of the most profitable and financially stable companies on the planet. I love Mopar as much as you do but even I can see that Honda knows what its doing, at least more so than Sergio.

        • 0 avatar
          DrGastro997

          I couldn’t understand that statement either. Honda isn’t fading and they’re not going to fade for many many years. Americans love Hondas and I don’t see that relationship going away any time soon…

    • 0 avatar
      jimmyy

      Are you suggesting Honda should dump piles of vehicles into rental fleets? Sorry. That is where lesser Detroit vehicles go. And, every time I rent a car, it is nearly always a Detroit product, which after a few days, I am thrilled to return to my Toyotas and Hondas.

  • avatar
    petezeiss

    Good luck with the HR-V if it’s coming from the same place as the critically delayed 2015 Fit.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Frankly, the 5% increase in 2014 sales is a more worrying figure than the modest decreases from Honda.

    Honda knows what it’s doing and is going to be just fine, thanks, even if they’re slightly down for the whole year, they’ll still have a pretty good year.

    All the automakers presently pumping up sales numbers through unsustainable and unprofitable tactics—they’re the concern.

    Honda is wise to operate within the market that SHOULD be, not the market its competitors WISH it to be. Wishes are not horses.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      Well put, philadlj. I agree wholeheartedly about Honda knowing what it’s doing.

      For what it’s worth, my wife absolutely loves her new CRV and while it’s not my cup of tea for a variety of reasons, it’s spacious, all wheel drive and gets the job done very competently. My only complaints are that it could use some additional sound deadening material and the gas mileage is disappointing.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      This. Chasing volume when you’re making solid profits is a fools’ game. The fact that Honda is the most stolen brand of car means they’re doing something right.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Honda is also losing out by not selling to the small but big spending and extremely profitable group of beneficiaries from the currently en vogue policy of reverse Robin Hooding. Debasing the savings of Acura buyers while handing the loot to BMW ones, are bound to hurt Acura relative to BMW.

      But Hondas executives, like other sentient Japanese, already know how effective Zero Interest Rate Policies and ringfencing the well connected, works in the long run…..

  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    So the practical and OK looking cars sell well and the turds don’t sell well? Do I get the economics Nobel Price for my accurate analysis?

    Who would have thought ugly cars don’t sell well?

  • avatar
    alsorl

    The Honda pilot is so out of date in design and technology and the decreased sales are proving my point. It comes out last in almost every comparison testing.

    • 0 avatar
      cargogh

      My sister wanted something smaller and got a ’14 Pilot Touring last week. My bro-in-law said they went in with a very low price in mind to trade in their high mileage ’12 Suburban with no expectations that Honda would accept that. But Honda shot him a price much lower so they got it. I didn’t want to break the bad news of the upcoming model change, but she already knew saying that by the time the new one comes out, we’ll already have 60-80K on this and be ready for something else anyway. Must be a great time to Honda shop.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      My wife, who has had one non-Honda (a Lexus) in her life, went shopping last fall and came home with an Explorer. The Pilot was too bland for her.

  • avatar
    cargogh

    At least the Civics are still stolen regularly. That has to be helpful.

    • 0 avatar
      cargogh

      Oops, I meant Accords. I like Accord sedans and fits. When equipped with a manual, that’s pretty much all I can think of they offer I like.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The ones that get stolen are 20 years old. I’m sure Honda would love to find a way of using the fact that more 20 year old Hondas are stolen every year than there are 20 year old Fords still on the road, but I suspect they won’t.

  • avatar
    EquipmentJunkie

    Honda is suffering from what I call “F150 Syndrome”. About 10 years ago when Ford was readying their F150 replacement, there was a good deal of hand-wringing by the automotive press because the stakes were very high with the brand-new F150. Their argument was that the F150 is such a high-volume, profitable vehicle for Ford that any misstep would have major consequences to the whole company. The writers made a valid point and so does Cain in this article.

    Honda is in much the same position as Ford was. I have been pointing this out to persons for a number of years. Honda’s success is centered around just a few models of strong volume. However, recent Honda intros and revamps have been shaky. (Crosstour, CR-Z, Insight, and Ridgeline) Only a handful of successful models separate the entire Honda line from Mazda-level sales numbers. If you doubt me, take a look at how Honda reacted with their 2012 Civic that fell from the graces of some influential parties…changes were made and made very quickly.

    The lack of sales success in 2014 should be very worrying for Honda. Less cash on the hood that we are seeing could be a test of resiliency of the brand. Thankfully for Honda, persons like my brother-in-law will carry their water for years. However, he’s getting older and my niece & nephew will soon be driving. Most kids don’t drive the brands that their parents did…

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      “Honda’s success is centered around just a few models of strong volume.”

      Other automakers would kill for those few models. If wishes were horses, beggers would ride Mazda2’s.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        That’s what I was thinking. Honda success is based on models selling at or near the top of some of the most competitive segments in the business. I’m sure that other automakers would love to have that “problem.”

    • 0 avatar
      EquipmentJunkie

      I don’t dispute what you’re both saying. They have some stellar product that prompts envy in many an automotive boardroom. I think that you miss my point in that Honda may be a victim of their own success. Things are great now…but what will the next generation do? Things haven’t been very rosy in Europe for Honda.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        While Honda was late to the party when it comes to diesels in Europe, the bigger problem is that the nature of the market doesn’t play to Honda’s strengths.

        Honda and Toyota regularly top the reliability surveys there, too. The problem is that reliability isn’t as all-important to Europeans as it is to Americans.

        Europe is much more densely populated, so mass transit is more feasible, and also covers a much larger percentage of the total area. Europeans also drive fewer miles per year than Americans do. Many Europeans receive their cars as a company-provided “perk” as a way around high income taxes. They thus aren’t as concerned about maintenance costs, or whether the car will break down after the warranty expires.

        Given those factors, Europeans simply don’t put the premium on reliability that Americans do.

        If you read various British publications, it quickly becomes clear that, in Great Britain, at least, Honda is thought of as an old person’s car. Given that most senior citizens are probably buying their own cars (they don’t work anymore), and are probably more concerned about being stranded after a breakdown, this makes sense. But this isn’t as important to younger buyers for the reasons I mentioned.

        • 0 avatar
          stephenjmcn

          They’re thought of as old people’s cars because retirees were (until recent events anyway) the only significant group who bought retail. I said in another post, Honda don’t do fleet here – business lease rates are astronomical, and they don’t go to hire companies.

          Given that the old folks are spending their own money, they want… quality and reliability, just like you guys do.

          It’s the problems of price (too high) and image (too low) conspiring to keep Hondas niche here. The new Accord isn’t coming here at all, just as the Camry departed a decade ago. I just wonder how long they’ll persist with the Euro models and the factories here that build them.

        • 0 avatar
          EquipmentJunkie

          Once again, geeber, you are correct on nearly all your points. I will say that the geographic/logistic/population issue is the same for all auto manufacturers, not just Honda.
          I’m not picking on Honda because other Japanese brands lost European market share, too. I am simply pointing out the automotive landscape has, is, and will continue to change.
          Let me point out my personal observations from my travels in Europe…
          I vacationed there in 2004, 2009, and in 2013. Hyundai & Kia did not seem to exist in 2004. I saw a few more of those two brands in 2009…especially in France. Hyundai & Kia vehicles seemed to be everywhere in 2013. I was with my gearhead brother during my trip in 2013. We both figured that the Koreans made their gains at the expense of the Japanese and French brands. How? We don’t know. I do know that we saw very few Honda, Mitsubishi, Mazda, & Toyota vehicles on the road. Things changed. Honda even recently closed their UK assembly plant. Ironically, we saw a fair number of cheap Chevys…probably the choice of a cheap pensioner. My brother’s comment on the lack of Japanese brands and growth of Korean brands tends to echo your last paragraph, “The Koreans took over the cheapskate market from the Japanese in Europe.”

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Honda has never had significant market share in Europe. If I am not mistaken, its best year was in 2007, at which point market share was only 2%.

            The Europeans succeeded at using trade barriers to limit the Japanese presence in Europe during the 70s and 80s. (The Europeans did not want the US experience repeated on their side of the Atlantic.) By the time that the Japanese got around to building plants there, the chance for momentum had been lost.

            The biggest losers in Europe in recent years have been PSA, Ford and GM. The clear winner is VAG.

  • avatar
    stephenjmcn

    I think Honda, who I’m a fan of, are far too reliant on their key models. Here in the UK, Honda to all intents and purposes sells only the Jazz (Fit), Civic and CRV. The old Accord (TSX) may be gone now, and barely registered when it was here.

    Frankly, I don’t understand the way they do business here. They charge almost BMW prices for mainstream cars, and offer very few engine choices, option packages, or even colours. They have a very under-utilised factory in the UK making Civics and CRVs, and don’t discount or sell to fleets in any meaningful way. Consequently they have few dealers, and very little visibility generally.

    It’s almost like they’re not trying.

    • 0 avatar
      snakebit

      I got the same impression when I was there in 2006: Saw one Accord/first gen TSX, NO Camrys, a handful of diesel Chrysler version Magnums and Cherokees, and lots of Ford Fiestas and VW Golfs, some as patrol cars. I saw just one last gen CR-V.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Honda’s marketing approach in Europe is even worse than VW’s in the US. In each case it seems like there’s a cultural disconnect between the company and the market.

      It’s too bad because Honda has made a lot of products that are well suited to European driving.

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      Apart from not trying (the only advertising I ever see of Hondas are in car related publications, so only car enthusiasts know they exist) their lineup is too narrow for European buyers. All the German manufacturers have cheap base models(that ‘no one’ buys) to get people into the dealerships, and expensive halo-cars(that ‘no one’ buys) to use for advertising, but they still sell cars that are equipped more or less like the competing Hondas. Honda only has the ‘middle’ model, in diesel or gas version, with or without leather more or less…
      On the other hand, used car prices are quite decent for Hondas, if you are willing to wait for an enthusiast to buy it…

  • avatar
    dal20402

    A new Pilot and HR-V will be very helpful in this market.

    The Accord is still at the top of its class (in a race for “best” with the 6 and Fusion, depending on your priorities) and will be fine as long as there aren’t any more missteps like the 8th gen.

    The Civic is proof that in the practical end of the market Honda has its pulse on people’s desires more than reviewers do.

    Where Honda is really suffering is in the “fun to drive” segments: premium sedans and sporty cars. Buyers in those segments are increasingly reluctant to accept even the best-executed product if it’s FWD-based. We see this in the cancellation of the Prelude, the icy reception of the RLX (which is a superior vehicle to the ES350, its natural competitor, but is priced as if it were a GS competitor), and most recently and dramatically, the lukewarm reception of the TLX (which is clearly the best FWD-based near-luxury product on the market). What Honda could use in this segment is something like GM’s Alpha platform: a single RWD-based platform with an emphasis on light weight and compatibility with as much existing hardware as possible. An Alpha could spawn a Honda sporty coupe and ILX and TLX replacements from Acura. A RWD TLX would free the RLX to be priced where it should be, in the $45,000 range.

  • avatar
    Maxb49

    Who would waste their money on a Honda Accord? I purchased a new Accord in 2006 and it was the worst driving, least reliable piece of garbage I ever owned.

  • avatar
    bd2

    Honda does its core lineup very well (aside from a few minor missteps).

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    Well since this is the most recent Honda thread, just throwing this news out there.

    A factory supercharger (warranted) is now available for the CR-Z. Saw it on LLN yesterday. Fixes that car’s most pronounced deficiency. Of course, dropping a K24 under the hood from day one would have been cheaper, easier, and more sensible. It’s $5500, which is perhaps not worth it on a new CRZ, but since used ones (6MT only) with not a lot of mileage can be had for under 15K, someone could throw together a Honda Hot Hatch for a respectable sum.

    The 2015 Accord configurator is out, and the 6MT V6 coupe can now be purchased in white! I’m pumped for this news because my 2011 was white and the whole red/black/gray thing was just sad. Regrettably the I4 coupe is still the Model T, and more regrettably I can’t afford a new car. :(


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