Honda Motor Co. is sprucing up its Civic sedan, which received poor reviews, after less than a year on the market as part of a plan to boost the automaker’s U.S. sales by 24 percent in 2012.
Honda will unveil “upgrades” on its 2013 Civic, going on sale late next year, Tetsuo Iwamura, the automaker’s top North American executive, said in an interview Tuesday in Romulus, Michigan.
The current Civic sedan failed to receive the “recommended” status its predecessors had from Consumer Reports magazine, which criticized it for a decline in interior quality, choppier ride, and more road noise. The magazine on Wednesday recommended the sportier Si version of the Civic.
“Building a good car isn’t enough for us, we have to build a great car,” John Mendel, Honda’s executive vice president of sales in the U.S., said in the same interview. “We think we can do better and the customer expects that and we will.”
U.S. sales of the Civic have fallen 13 percent this year to 200,690, according to researcher Autodata Corp.
Honda’s U.S. sales declined 5.3 percent through November while industrywide deliveries gained 10 percent as Honda suffered inventory shortages caused by Thai floods in October and the March disasters.
Honda has about 117,000 models in inventory, or a 41-day supply, less than half what it should have, Iwamura said.
“Hopefully, by the end of March next year” Honda will have full inventory, Iwamura said. “If John could sell more, then it will be the end of April or May.”
The nation’s third-largest automaker counts on the U.S. for the largest portion of its global sales. Tight inventory and competition from rivals including Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp. cut Honda’s U.S. market share to 9 percent through November from 10.5 percent a year earlier. Combined share for South Korea’s Hyundai and Kia rose to 9 percent from 7.8 percent in the same period.
The automaker has set a target to increase U.S. sales of its namesake brand to 1.25 million models next year, from about 1 million this year, Iwamura said. It plans to boost sales of its Acura luxury line by 43 percent to 180,000 from about 126,000 this year, he said.
Sales growth will be driven by replenished inventory and a 2013 lineup with more than 70 percent new models, Iwamura said. Upgrading the Civic, Honda’s second best-selling car in the U.S., and other models is an important part of that growth strategy, he said.
Competitors’ small cars are improving, which is challenging the Civic, Iwamura said.
“The gap between the Civic and the competitors has been narrowed,” Iwamura said. “We have to once again make the gap wider.”
Honda will upgrade the styling, driving characteristics and comfort of the Civic and other models for the 2013 model year, Iwamura said.
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