SAN FRANCISCO – American Honda Motor Co. Inc. is adding a new trim level to its Ridgeline compact pickup truck for the ’07 model year.

“We’ll be introducing another trim between the base and the next level of trim that’s got some added features and value,” Dan Bonawitz, vice president-auto operations, says here at a recent Acura media event.

The RTX edition, available now, will make standard such features as a trailer hitch and wiring harness as part of its towing package. It begins at $28,300, above the base RT model ($27,800) but below the RTS and RTL trims, which sticker at or above $30,000.

After its release early last year, the Ridgeline, the only unibody pickup truck offered in the U.S., struggled to find a place in the market. The issue at first seemed its high starting price compared with traditional body-on-frame compact trucks, but Bonawitz now says its slow ramp-up had more to do with generous incentives on fullsize pickup trucks and an initially rich mix.

“Unfortunately, when we introduced the Ridgeline, it was right at the height of truck incentives (for fullsize pickups) and dealers ordered very heavily on the top trim and accessorized them to a large degree,” he says. “So people were seeing $36,000-$40,000 Ridgelines, and it created an image which I subsequently think is being corrected.”

He ballparks the average transaction price of a Ridgeline at $33,000.

“When you do an apples-to-apples value comparison, Ridgeline comes out pretty good,” Bonawitz says of its price point.

He notes other auto makers are beginning to emulate the Ridgeline, including Ford Motor Co. with its revamped Explorer SportTrac, which has three small in-bed storage compartments. He says General Motors Corp. reportedly is planning to offer a similar feature in some next-generation pickups.

Through May, sales of the Ridgeline in the U.S. are up 115.1% to 22,950 units vs. the first five months of 2005, according to Ward’s data.

Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the vehicle spectrum is Honda’s S2000 roadster. New entries in the category are springing up like weeds, but the S2000 was last new in the ’00 model year.

While he can’t say when there will be a next generation, Bonawitz assures there are no plans to discontinue the sports car and that Honda is studying “future possibilities.

“There may very likely be a replacement down the road, although I can’t say when,” he says, adding sales of about 7,000 units annually in the U.S. are above Honda’s original expectations.

S2000 deliveries in the U.S. are off 2.6% through May, at 2,895 units, according to Ward’s data.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com