$4+ per gallon gasoline has wiped out demand for big trucks and SUVs, leading to double-digit sales declines for the major car makers in June.
Honda, however, eked out a one percent sales gain.
DETROIT (AP) — When consumers astonished the U.S. auto industry two months ago by quickly shunning trucks and going for gas mileage, the biggest beneficiary ended up being Honda Motor Co.
The No. 2 Japanese automaker, with the most fuel-efficient model lineup in the industry, never put both feet into the U.S. truck market, instead focusing on slow-but-steady growth with popular cars like the Civic and Accord.
It paid off in June. While its major competitors reported double-digit sales declines and burgeoning truck and sport utility vehicle inventories, Honda had a modest 1 percent sales increase.
But while Honda may look like it can peer into the future, the company’s top U.S. executive says it is well-positioned for $4 per gallon gasoline because it always has emphasized small, fuel-efficient vehicles.
“We’re not geniuses,” John Mendel, the company’s U.S. executive vice president, said Wednesday. “We’re consistent.”
Industry analysts say Honda has managed to avoid the sales crisis that has hit the Detroit Three and even Toyota Motor Corp. for two reasons. Although it makes SUVs and a small pickup, it has a strong lineup of cars that get good gas mileage. And its factories are so flexible that it can quickly make more of the vehicles that are in demand.
“We can reprogram it to make it build more Civics,” Mendel said. “That’s by far one of our competitive advantages.”
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