Business / Corporate

Honda retools tiny Fit to retake GM, Ford in U.S.

Bloomberg

Honda Motor Co., trailing General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. in U.S. subcompact car sales, will try to boost deliveries with a new Fit hatchback that will be made in North America for the first time.

The 2015 Fit shown this week at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit is roomier, faster and more fuel-efficient than the current car, while the exterior size is little changed, Honda said.

Along with a new body design and more standard technology, the Fit gets a new 1.5-liter engine that produces as much as 11 percent more horsepower and 16 percent better fuel economy, the company said.

“It’s simply the best Fit to date and, we believe, a new benchmark in the small-car category,” John Mendel, Honda’s U.S. executive vice president, said Monday. Sales will begin in the “late spring,” he said, without elaborating.

While past versions of the Fit have been praised by Consumer Reports magazine, the car hasn’t been a big volume hit along the lines of Honda’s Civic, the top-selling U.S. small car in 2013, and the Accord, which trails only Toyota Motor Corp.’s Camry. Sales of GM’s Chevrolet Sonic hatchback, at 85,646, and Ford Motor Co.’s subcompact Fiesta, at 71,073, dwarfed Fit’s 52,944 last year.

With the new car, “we definitely do more,” Mendel said in an interview. He declined to say whether the company’s target was 100,000 annual U.S. sales.

U.S. deliveries of the Honda model, a top-seller in Japan, were limited by the yen’s high value against the dollar that made the import a money loser, said Ed Kim, an analyst at researcher AutoPacific Inc.

Honda will start making the U.S. Fit at a new plant in Celaya, Mexico, that opens next month.

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