Special Coverage

Management Briefing Seminars

TRAVERSE CITY MI – Honda Motor Co. Ltd. will launch its new global hybrid worldwide on April 22, also known as Earth Day, says Richard Colliver, American Honda Motor Co. Inc. executive vice president.

The ’09 B-segment 5-door is Honda’s second dedicated hybrid-electric vehicle following the now-defunct Insight.

Colliver reiterates to Management Briefing Seminars’ attendees here Honda’s goal to sell 100,000 units of the new ’09 HEV on an annual basis but declines to estimate how many deliveries the auto maker anticipates for 2009, nor whether it expects to eventually overtake rival Toyota Motor Corp.’s Prius in sales.

Honda’s overall U.S. sales could fall as much as 5,000 units this month, compared with year-ago, as slim supplies of its most popular models – the Fit subcompact, Civic compact and Accord midsize sedan and coupe – leave dealers short.

Colliver says the auto maker only expects to have 5,000-5,500 Fits available for the U.S. in August.

Meanwhile, Civic supplies will be affected by the changeover from ’08 to ’09 models, although he expects efforts to boost production, including overtime at the East Liberty, OH, plant, to result in an increase in Civics by October.

“I would anticipate we won’t hit our (year-ago sales) number for this month,” Colliver tells the media following his speech. “When you start the month with about 400 or 500 Fits in dealer inventory, with over 1,000 dealers, it’s difficult.”

But Colliver is positive about the Honda brand’s overall calendar-year sales, which according to Ward’s data sold 846,360 units through July, compared with 802,057 in like-2007.

Related document: Ward’s U.S. Light Vehicle Sales by Brand and Group

“Right now, we’re up about 45,000 units (through July),” he says. “Our goal is to keep it that direction. We think we can come close, but the key is the light-truck market.”

In his speech, Colliver says Honda’s success in the U.S. market so far this year, with sales rising in the face of an industry-wide downturn, is not luck but the result of careful planning and a focus on fuel-efficient models.

However, American Honda is not reveling in its acheivement, Colliver says. “On June 3, the morning after our record May sales results were announced, we had a meeting of top management.

“I was feeling pretty pumped up. Then I go into our meeting, and our entire discussion was about the need to further reduce costs. So much for yesterday’s newspaper.”

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com