Honda Motor Co. is counting on its new HR-V and Pilot SUVs to help hold off a surge by Nissan Motor Co. in the U.S. this year, the head of its sales unit in the market said.
“With a record year, I think that that could happen,” John Mendel, the Honda unit’s executive vice president, told reporters Monday in Detroit. “But we’re not sitting around with Nissan’s numbers on the wall.”
Honda is seeking a boost as U.S. sales for its namesake brand rose less than 1 percent this year through May, while its Nissan counterpart gained 2.6 percent. That’s given the Nissan brand a lead of almost 11,000 vehicles. For all of 2014, Tokyo-based Honda’s main division outsold Nissan’s by about 104,000 cars and light trucks.
The refreshed midsize Pilot sport utility vehicle and the compact HR-V are intended to strengthen a lineup that relied on the Accord sedan, CR-V SUV and Civic small car for three-quarters of the Honda brand’s U.S. deliveries last year. The Pilot goes on sale June 18, following the HR-V’s mid-May debut. Mendel said the two vehicles should help Honda win customers from other brands.
Honda sold 6,381 HR-Vs last month. The new model is based on the automaker’s Fit subcompact car and provides a smaller alternative to the CR-V, the top-selling SUV in the U.S. Compact SUVs and crossovers grew to 11 percent of the U.S. new-car market from 7 percent in 2007, according to Kelley Blue Book.
The Pilot, which was the best-selling midsize SUV in the U.S. as recently as 2010, is getting a much-needed update. The last revamp was in 2008, before Americans renewed their love of SUVs. Pilot U.S. sales slid 14 percent last year while the midsize segment grew 5.2 percent, according to Autodata Corp.