By on January 30, 2017

2017 Honda CR-V - Image: Honda“We think we can sell more than we did last year.”
– John Mendel, American Honda Executive Vice President

It took eight years for American Honda to break 2007’s U.S. sales record. But after muscling past the eight-year-old barrier in 2015, the Honda brand shot past the new mark with ease in 2016.

And Honda, typically prudent-verging-on-pessimistic, intends to report record sales at the end of 2017, as well.

“We have new product launches like CR-V and Civic and we have some other new products,” American Honda executive vice president John Mendel told Wards Auto, referencing the 2018 Odyssey and presumably a tenth-generation Accord.

Even among optimistic forecasters who believe 2016 did not represent peak U.S. auto sales, growth projections are marginal. In general, however, a modest slowdown is the more likely outcome. A Bloomberg survey of 10 analysts shows an anticipated 1- or 2-percent drop from 2016’s high water mark.2018 Honda Civic Type R Prototype - Image: HondaRETAIL & INCENTIVES
Honda is poised to take the advantage in 2017, however, just as Honda grew far faster than the market average in 2016.

The Honda brand closed out 2016 up 5 percent from 2015’s record performance, and did so with limited exposure to the sometimes low-profit world of daily rental fleets. (Automotive News estimates that American Honda earned 2 percent of its 2016 volume from fleet sales, compared with 9 percent at Toyota, 21 percent at Hyundai-Kia, and 19 percent at Nissan.)

Honda’s record 2016 was also marked by limited incentivization. In December, for instance, ALG says Honda’s incentive spend rose to an average of $2,154 per vehicle, but that was still 41 percent below the industry average.

Among major automakers, only Subaru uses incentives more sparingly.

PRODUCT
With the strict, self-imposed adherence to a retail-driven, anti-incentive approach, Honda will instead have to rely on new vehicles to power the brand to a higher plane in 2016. It worked in 2016.

Last year, Honda benefited from small car success with both the new Civic and the made-in-Japan Fit, a compact and subcompact that combined for more than 35,000 extra sales.

This year, Honda adds halo cars to the Civic lineup: a new Civic Si coupe and North America’s first Civic Type R hatchback. As we reported previously, Mendel told Wards that, if necessary for the Civic, “We can lean on Japan for production if we need to.” The Civic Type R will join the rest of the hatchback lineup on ships sent from the United Kingdom.

Indeed, Honda has such faith in the Civic despite the struggles of America’s passenger car market, which slid 9 percent in 2016, that Mendel believes it may still be the brand’s best-selling model in 2017. “There’s a very good possibility the CR-V will be on top, but the Civic will have more bullets in the gun as well, so we’ll see,” Mendel says.2018 Honda Odyssey - Image: HondaHonda is nevertheless expanding production for the all-new CR-V, though the intention is not to chase Toyota’s surging RAV4 simply in order to hold onto the CR-V’s crown as America’s best-selling SUV/crossover.

The CR-V and Civic both posted record annual U.S. sales in 2016.

As for the new Odyssey, a van that actually generated more sales in 2016 than its Pilot stablemate, production alterations at the Lincoln, Alabama, plant where the van, the Pilot, and the Ridgeline pickup truck will allow for greater supply at Honda stores, too. All Acura MDX production is moving out of Alabama to Mexico Ohio.

Honda’s John Mendel sees no shortage of warning signs for the industry at large, painting with a broad brush when it comes to long-term loans, fleet reliance, and incentives. “Especially if overall demand softens to, say, 15 or 16 million — still good business, by the way — that’s when the tail of this whip really comes around to smack the holder,” Mendel told the Automotive News World Congress.

But Honda isn’t the holder. As a result, expectations for Honda’s 2017 are high.

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.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

34 Comments on “Slowdown? What Slowdown? Ever-cautious American Honda Predicts Record Sales In 2017...”


  • avatar

    Most of their lineup is new, and all are solid choices.

    Only issue I see is that whether or not the new CR-V will sell like the old one did. I say that, because even after seeing it in the flesh, I still don’t like it.

    I don’t envision us being repeat CRV owners in the future (unless they redesign it).

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    The wife’s Odyssey has been problem free for the 2.5 years we’ve owned it. Now if I could just her to actually use the built-in vacuum cleaner once in a while…
    .
    .

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    If Honda expects to grow a bit, then that will come at the expense of other mfrs – Ford, Toyota, FCA, and VW come to mind first.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      I think they can do it. Look at each segment they are competing in:

      B-segment- Fit is the class leader by a wide margin; I don’t see a new Fiesta striking back.

      B-segment CUV- HR-V is the class leader. None of the companies listed even have an answer to it.

      C-segment- Looks aside, Civic is the class leader here too, and hopefully they will bring some sanity back with a mid model refresh. Focus is due for a re-do but again I’m not seeing a big strike back from them. Corolla is like plain white rice.

      C-segment CUV- CR-V is all new and seems to have moved the game forward a step with regards to refinement. Barring maybe Kia I think everyone will be playing catch up.

      D-segment- Accord is still competitive despite being old… next Camry poses a threat, but this segment is shrinking anyway. Not worth betting the house on.

      Etc. Honda’s either the best or doing OK in every segment, with room for easy improvement. I don’t think the growth will come at the expense of a big player like Toyota or even Ford; it’s going to be at the expense of middle of the road players like VW, Mazda and Nissan.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Well, is Honda hurting Toyota now? Because the outlooks from the two companies are very different, and Toyota just euthanized one of their divisions.

      On the other hand, Honda’s mismanagement of Acura is almost as bad as GM’s mismanagement of Cadillac – almost.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Not surprising. The lineup is good from top to bottom.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      “good” but not “very good”. Too many CVTs. Pilot and Odyssey – 2 minivans, one with sliding doors, lowered to the ground

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        I used to hate on CVTs too, but like anything else, I’ve found there’s a right way and a wrong way to execute one.

        The wrong way is to mate a CVT with a low-power, low-torque engine. The net result will be that awful, hamster-on-a-wheel feel that people hate CVTs for. Examples: Honda Fit, Nissan Sentra, last-gen Civic, current Corolla. All awful to drive.

        But when you mate it to a decent engine, the setup is more than livable. I came very close to buying a base Civic LX with one a few months back, and it’s a vast improvement over the last-gen Civic’s setup. The extra power in the new model makes a big difference.

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          I drove CVT Accord when they just came out. I felt that it takes some time to get goin’ off the line, even if some reporters write that “this is best CVT in town”. I tried Nissan Juke – cvt+turbo=large delay, it was bad. and I love fast response

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            If you look at acceleration stats, you’re not wrong–0-30 mph times for the Accord and Altima CVTs are slower than for the Camry 6spd even though they start to pull ahead by 40. It feels like they don’t start out with as low a ratio. They feel much more responsive on the move, though, switching to a lower ratio more quickly than most geared automatics can downshift.

        • 0 avatar
          George B

          The Accord sedan K24 and CVT combo is well suited to stop and go suburban commutes for me. Keeps engine rpm low for good fuel economy with the ability to adjust transmission ratio rapidly and smoothly when needed.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        After driving both the Fit and Accord 2.4T, I’m still not a CVT enthusiast, but I don’t quite mind them. Truthfully, they are no worse than a regular automatic…the Fit I drove would have been no better with a conventional box, and the Accord I drove was great in spite of the CVT. It’s not like anything in this class is getting the DCT out of a GT3 or anything, even Ford’s DCTs are pretty bad.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Agreed. I think Honda’s lineup is better than it’s been at any other time in the last 20 years. However, I do wish they’d knock it out with their dorky alloy-wheel designs…

    • 0 avatar
      syncro87

      I used to hate CVTs. Our 2014 Civic with CVT is fairly miserable as far as the powertrain goes. However, my wife’s ’16 with the turbo engine and improved CVT is light years better. I don’t mind the transmission in that car much at all. It is pretty invisible in the new-gen Civic, at least when paired with the turbo powerplant.

      I’ve driven some miserable CVT cars. The Sentra I drove a year or so ago comes to mind.

      The ’16 Civic is definitely very good to excellent. Better than “good”, even with the CVT. I can’t speak to the current Odyssey or Pilot, have not driven them.

      Speaking of DCT transmissions, my friend had a diesel Jetta with the dual clutch trans. It imploded ever so slightly out of warranty. VW told him to pound sand. He went from a VW guy who had owned many of them to a Japanese car owner in short order. I think the bill was somewhere around $4-5k to repair the Jetta. I’m guessing CVTs aren’t any cheaper to repair/replace. But I trust the Asians with transmissions over the long haul more than I do anything out of Wolfsburg (Puebla).

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        No substitute for torque and HP.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        CVTs and tiny turbo engines are a match made in heaven. Either one is sufficiently inherently laggy so one gets to blame the other for the inevitable Novocaine infusion. While the infinite ratios of the CVT allows ECU programmers maximum freedom, to keep the turbo engine in it’s ideal state, for whatever they decide ideal is. The more experience makes get with this combo, the better it will get.

        And, lets at least hope, the stronger Mazda’s USP will be, if they continue to stick with NA engines and real transmissions once everyone else have departed for the Novocaine lounge.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    Strong product. Low incentives. Minimal fleet sales. CR-V, Civic, Ridgeline and Pilot all brand new. Accord and Odyssey refreshes within a year.

    In case FCA, GM, Nissan or VW are wondering how to win at this business, everyday Honda writes the book.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Poor Acura!

  • avatar
    zoomzoomfan

    Sigh. I have really grown to like the new Civic, so much so that I kinda sorta wish I would’ve bought one instead of my 6. Hindsight is 20/20. :)

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Your 6 looks so much better than the overwrought Civic and the post-refresh interior is a nicer place to be. I wouldn’t regret it for a moment.

      • 0 avatar
        zoomzoomfan

        The only issue is if Mazda discontinues the 6 or if they pull out of the U.S. market altogether due to declining sales. Then, I’m left with a car with no parts support or resale. Neither of those would happen with a Civic.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Honda is offering some great lease deals on CRV, Accord hybrid, and Civic here in Indiana. Looks like they are really trying to move the metal this year.

  • avatar
    syncro87

    It is funny how fast things can change. Our 9th gen Civic is a rolling chicane, 4 cylinder non turbo with CVT. Pretty much a dog to drive, although stone reliable. Fast forward to the new generation of Civic, and it is night and day. Wife’s EX-T feels like a car from a whole different company, in a good way. A far better car… remarkably so.

    The only disappointments are paper thin sheet metal, and fairly wide body panel gaps. Supposedly the body panels are stronger but thinner metal, to save weight. I imagine this is how the whole industry is headed, but I prefer the stouter sheet metal of our ’14 Honda. When you wash the new version, the slightest pressure causes oil can effect on the hood and roof. I’d rather give up one MPG and have metal that was a touch thicker.

    I’m eager to drive two Hondas: our Civic EX-T but with a manual transmission, and the new CR-V with the 1.5T engine.

    Historically, we’re pretty much a Volkswagen family, but when it came time to get a new car, VW had nothing approaching the value equation of the Civic EX-T when we cast an unbiased eye at the marketplace. Of late, for the first time in probably 20 years, there is no longer a VW in our driveway or garage.

    I do get tempted on occasion to dump our old gen Civic and pick up a base-o Jetta manual like one of our TTAC members recently did, but then I think better of it.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      Would be interesting to know what metal thickness they have gone to.

      Back in the day, it was typically .032 inch thickness (20 gauge).

      The Vega went to .028 inch which at GM was known as “0-too-thin”.

      You can make up strength via alloy content but not modulus and rust resistance can suffer too.

      Will be interesting to see these slimmed down panels in the rust belt in 7 or 8 yrs.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    “My eyes! The goggles do nothing!”

    My first reaction on seeing that Civic hatch. You need to provide a warning or something at the beginning of the article. “Warning: Graphic images. May be upsetting to some viewers.”

  • avatar
    2drsedanman

    “My eyes! The goggles do nothing!”–TMA1

    This x 1000! Damn, I can’t believe how ugly that Civic is, from every view. Sharp, angles everywhere, giant wing, body cladding. Hopefully it drives better than it looks.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      I think that car may be unsalvageable. Nothing can be done to hide those looks. At this point, I think Honda is just trolling its customers, just to see what they’ll put up with. If it was a GM car (and it does look like a modern Pontiac), the media would rip it to shreds.

      The Civic hatch is the new Aztek.

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    Jeepers, Honda must be tired of Winning already.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    I wanted to say something earlier, but I held back. However, I opened “car and driver” today and I saw this

    “If we could marry a car company at this very moment, there’s little question it would be Mazda. Maybe it’s not the sexiest, certainly it’s not the richest, but there’s no other auto manufacturer with whose full lineup we’d rather settle down.”

    I think so too


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Hummer: Jeez, I can’t imagine paying that much for 1 vehicle, $1,900 is what one could expect to pay for about 3-4...
  • geozinger: Fnck. I’ve lost lots of cars to the tinworm. I had a 97 Cavalier that I ran up to 265000 miles. The...
  • jh26036: Who is paying $55k for a CTR? Plenty are going before the $35k sticker.
  • JimZ: Since that’s not going to happen, why should I waste any time on your nonsensical what-if?
  • JimZ: Funny, Jim Hackett said basically the same thing yesterday and people were flinging crap left and right.

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Timothy Cain, Canada
  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States