SAN DIEGO – Honda hopes to sell at least 70,000 units annually in the U.S. of its third-generation Fit subcompact.

The Japanese automaker has sold as many as 79,794 Fits in the U.S. in a calendar year (2008) and says hitting that number again isn’t out of the question.

With the Fit now being assembled in North America, Honda will “have some flexibility” to meet higher demand, American Honda’s Jeff Conrad, senior vice president and general manager-Honda Div., tells WardsAuto in an interview here during a ’15 Fit media preview.

The new Fit assembly site, in Celaya, Mexico, eventually will be able to churn out 200,000 units per year of the car, as well as a Fit-based CUV going into production in the fall.

Conrad says Honda was hamstrung for inventory of the first- and second-generation B-cars due to strong global demand and by a Japan plant that was strapped to meet it.

“In the past, the Fit was so successful throughout the world we were limited in what we could get,” he says. “We’ll have sustainable volumes now.”

With 70,000 sales per year, Honda estimates the Fit will match the retail deliveries of the top-selling subcompact in the U.S., Nissan’s Versa Note, which racks up 100,000 units annually combining retail and fleet sales.

The Fit has enjoyed stronger demographics than its subcompact competitors in the U.S., and Honda expects that trend to continue with the new generation.

“We’re capturing the highest household income and percentage of college grads,” says Hiroaki Hamaya, senior product planner-American Honda.

According to J.D. Power PIN data, Fit buyers have an average household income of $72,000 per year, compared with a range of $60,000 (Chevrolet Sonic) to $65,000 (Toyota Yaris) for the competitive set.

Some 64% of Fit buyers graduate college, vs. 55% of Sonic owners and 58% of Ford Fiesta customers.

However, the Fit trails the Fiesta in median age (48 vs. 45) and percentage of buyers under 35 (28% vs. 33%).

Most Fit customers have been new to Honda, and more than half buy another Honda, two more trends Hamaya hopes to maintain, if not grow, with the third-gen model.

“We realize (there is a) key opportunity to bring in a new generation of Honda buyers,” he says.

The Ford Focus has been the car most commonly traded in for a Fit, followed by the Toyota Corolla and Chrysler PT Cruiser.

The ’15 Fit, on sale April 14 in the U.S., transitions away from the outgoing models’ Base and Sport grades and adopts Honda’s common LX, EX and EX-L grade structure.

The ’15 Fit begins at $15,525 for an LX grade with a manual transmission or $16,325 with a continuously variable transmission, up $100 from ’13 Fit Base models with a manual or 5-speed automatic.

A ’15 Fit EX with a manual or CVT is $225 more than a comparable ’13 Fit Sport.

Honda says buyers now get more for their money, though, with $1,000 in added LX-grade content, including a rearview camera and LED taillights, and $1,800 worth of features on the EX grade, including a moonroof and push-button start.

With a greater amount of standard items, Honda expects more buyers to opt for the base vehicle, with a projected mix of 35% LX-55% EX, vs. 30% Base-60% Sport for the outgoing ’13 model.

The 10% of buyers that used to purchase the top-line Fit with navigation now are seen split 60-40 between the new $19,800 Fit EX-L, which adds Fit-first leather seating and HD radio, and the $20,800 Fit EX-L with navigation.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com