The Honda HR-V Did Not Kill The Honda Fit After All, Thank Goodness

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
the honda hr v did not kill the honda fit after all thank goodness

Within months of the Honda HR-V arriving in North America, it seemed as though the Honda Fit was dead to rights.

Last summer, U.S. sales of the Honda Fit tumbled 35 percent as the starting point of a second-half in which Fit sales would plunge 54 percent.

The cause was obvious, or so it seemed. Consumers don’t want subcompact cars, consumers want subcompact crossovers.

With the subcompact crossover, the Honda HR-V, lining up alongside the subcompact car, the Honda Fit, inside Honda showrooms, consumers were driving away in HR-Vs 80 percent of the time.

Fast forward one year: it seems as though Honda has remedied the situation. Not only are U.S. sales of the Fit rising rapidly, the Honda HR-V continues to strengthen its share of the American subcompact crossover market.

How’d they do it? Don’t tell a certain presidential candidate, but it’s all because of Honda’s Japanese-Mexican arrangement.

Known in these parts as the worst current Honda product, the Honda HR-V nevertheless generated more U.S. sales in its first seven months on the market than its Fit platform-sharing sibling did in the whole of calendar year 2015. From the perspective of the Fit, one of its segment’s freshest products, the HR-V’s launch period was a disaster.

After averaging nearly 5,800 monthly Fit sales in the year leading up to the HR-V’s launch, Honda then sold fewer than 3,500 Fits per month in the six months after the HR-V’s launch.

POST HOC ERGO PROPTER HOC


After this, therefore because of this? So the market trend would lead you to believe.

The assumption: America’s growing appetite for crossovers, combined with America’s decreased demand for small cars, was causing consumers of Honda’s magic-seated subcompacts to choose the HR-V four times out of five.

The assumption was incorrect.

Recalls plagued the third-gen’s Fit early tenure. Then inventory dried up. From a 79-day supply of Fits two years ago, Honda only had 27-day supply of Fits a year ago.

In other words, the Honda Fit was struggling because Honda didn’t have enough Fits. The Fit, your punny Dad would say, was not fit to serve.

DON’T TURN THAT BOAT AROUND


But heading into August of this year, Automotive News reported an 81-day supply of Fits in Honda showrooms, inventory levels that increased once again heading of September.

The Fit’s rising inventory comes not as Fit sales dwindle, but rather as Fit volume surges. Year-over-year, sales of the Fit during the last three months grew 33 percent. American Honda has reported more than 5,000 Fit sales in five consecutive months after averaging 3,000 monthly sales over the previous eight months. August volume jumped 85 percent.

Month to month, Fit sales have improved in five of the last seven months, rising to a 14-month high in July. At the current rate of growth, Honda will report in 2016 more than 60,000 Fit sales for the first time since 2009.

So, a year ago, Honda’s HR-V emphasis brought the Fit low. Is the reverse true this year?

Not at all. Coinciding with the Fit’s improvements are increased HR-V sales. After its first-full-month performance of 7,760 sales in June 2015, limited supply also hampered HR-V volume for many months. But HR-V inventory is ramping up, and American Honda reported 7,580 HR-V sales in August 2016, a 14-month high. Over the last four months, HR-V sales have jumped 18 percent, year-over-year.

Heading into September, Automotive News said American Honda had 27,000 HR-Vs in stock, the greatest level of supply since Honda’s subcompact CUV was launched.

LAND OF THE RISING FIT


What changed? Japanese Fit production.

Of the HR-V and Fit, American Honda spokesperson James Jenkins tells TTAC, “We are seeing a good production level that is getting closer to overall customer demand.”

Last year, the Celaya, Mexico, facility tasked with bringing HR-Vs to the American market was also responsible for delivering Fits to the United States. But fast forward to the present and 96 percent of the Fits sold in the United States in August 2016 were imported from Japan. Yes, that Japan, where the first two generations of Fit were sourced before Honda began building the third-generation Fit in the Mexican state of Guanajuato.

Assembly of Japanese-built Fits destined for U.S. consumption began one year ago at a long-awaited plant in Yorii. Fit production switched in May 2016 to a plant in Suzuka “to optimize the volume distribution,” said Honda’s Jenkins.

Regardless of their origins, it’s clear that American Honda’s dealers now have Fits and HR-Vs to sell. The duo combined for 12,950 U.S. sales in August 2016, up 73 percent from August 2015. Only 1 out of every 20 Hondas sold in the U.S. in August 2015 were Fits and HR-Vs. That figure jumped to 1 in 10 in August 2016.

After briefly sharing a bedroom, the Honda HR-V did not kill its older brother. The HR-V merely asked the Fit to move into an apartment on the other side of town.

Now the siblings get along fine.

[Images: American Honda]

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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  • Anonymic Anonymic on Sep 25, 2016

    I got one of the last 2016 manual Fits available, they had to truck it in from over 700 miles away. That was in February, they'd run a lot of manuals, then a lot of CVT's and shut the plant down and moved it to Japan a few months prior. Anyone who speculated that the HR-V killed the Fit was talking out of their ass.

  • Kc1980 Kc1980 on Sep 26, 2016

    Honda dropped the ball on the fits styling big time. The previous generation was much more appealing. I suspect that might have something to do with it.

  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion: https://xroads.virginia.edu/~Hyper2/thoreau/civil.html
  • Kevin Ford can do what it's always done. Offer buyouts to retirement age employees, and transfers to operating facilities to those who aren't retirement age. Plus, the transition to electric isn't going to be a finger snap one time event. It's going to occur over a few model years. What's a more interesting question is: Where will today's youth find jobs in the auto industry given the lower employment levels?
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