TRAVERSE CITY, MI – American Honda Motor Co. Inc.’s passing Chrysler Group in monthly sales in July barely registered at Honda’s U.S. offices.

“It’s nothing we focus on,” says John Mendel, senior vice president-automobile operations, for American Honda. “We sold what we planned to sell.”

Honda sold 151,804 units in July, above Chrysler’s 150,349, according to Ward’s data.

“Honda is a little bit unique in that we don’t set individual manufacturers as targets to pick off,” Mendel tells reporters following his speech here at the 2006 Management Briefing Seminars.

“We define a business plan; we know what we want to sell; and we go after what we want to sell,” he says. “You very seldom hear us talk about (market) share because, unless you’re managing your own performance review, share is just an outcome.”

Mendel spoke here Wednesday afternoon, following pro-U.S. presentations by his former colleague, Ford Motor Co. Executive Vice President Mark Fields (the two worked together at Mazda Motor Corp.) and American Axle & Mfg. Co. CEO Dick Dauch.

Mendel takes issue with those viewing Honda solely as a foreign-owned entity.

“How much of your production do you have to build here before you’re the home team,” Mendel asks, saying Honda imports fewer vehicles than Ford.

Mendel is unconcerned about a backlash in light of the July sales results, saying he believes consumers “are smarter than people are giving them credit for. I think they buy what they want not because of where it’s made but what it gives them.”

Mendel uses the podium to talk about Honda’s environmental stance, pointing out it was the first auto maker to offer a hybrid-electric vehicle in the U.S., the soon-to-be-discontinued Insight.

He also discusses Honda’s efforts in alternative-fuel vehicles, including upcoming diesels, and its natural-gas and hydrogen fuel-cell Civic models.

Mendel proposes an environmental summit, possibly in Traverse City, noting the area’s natural beauty, that would bring all auto makers together to discuss the topic.

“Give us some credit. We stuck to our core commitment to provide fuel-efficient vehicles,” he says of Honda, bringing up the fact some industry pundits are calling this “Honda’s time” due to rising gasoline prices.

The auto maker continues to have too little supply to meet demand for its Civic and Fit small cars as U.S. gasoline prices hover above $3 per gallon.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com