Honda needs new Accord to be a hit in U.S. market
By Ben Klayman
YPSILANTI, Michigan (Reuters) - Honda Motor Co (7267.T: Quote) needs the next generation of its bread-and-butter mid-sized car, the Accord, to be a hit in the United States.
The Japanese automaker is counting on the 2013 Accord, being launched this month, to recapture share in the U.S. market's largest and most competitive segment. Rivals are not standing still, with Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T: Quote), Nissan Motor Co (7201.T: Quote), General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote) and Ford Motor Co (F.N: Quote) rolling out redesigned models of their own.
"There's no question that Accord is the single most important model in our lineup," Honda Vice President Mike Accavitti said at an event outside Detroit to introduce the car.
Analysts have said the new Accord needs to be a home run for Honda, whose 2012 Civic small car was criticized by some reviewers for uninspired design and bumpy ride. The success of the new Accord, which includes a new generation of engines and transmissions to boost fuel efficiency, is also crucial for Honda's global sales ambitions.
Honda has set a global sales target of 4.3 million vehicles in the financial year to March 2013, up 38 percent from the previous year, with North America to account for about 40 percent of the total. Honda expects to sell almost 1.3 million vehicles in the United States this year.
With an annual sales target in the U.S. market of 350,000 cars for the ninth-generation Accord, Honda has a big challenge as it has seen the car's market share in its segment shrink from 15.7 percent in 2009 to 12.2 percent so far this year, according to TrueCar.com.
"Honda's going to have a tough time recapturing share," said Bob Martin, a senior consultant at product development firm The CARLAB. "Despite their claims that it's a revolutionary new design, I just don't think it's a big enough change to beat back Hyundai (005380.KS: Quote), Kia (000270.KS: Quote), (Volkswagen AG's (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) ) Passat and of course the Ford Fusion.
"Honda and Toyota's biggest problem is that there's no one selling crappy cars here anymore," he added. "With U.S. automakers making the improvements they've made, they're not so far behind that you'd have to be a fool to buy a Chevy." Continued...