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When it comes to family sedans and smaller cars and SUVs, for the last two decades, Honda and Toyota ranked as top choices for many Americans. Not any more. It seems that more and more U.S. motorists that once drove Corollas, Civics, Accords and Camrys exclusively are now looking at alternatives.
Although supply of certain Toyotas and Hondas is still proving problematic following the March 11 earthquake and Tsunami in Japan, the decline in both automaker’s fortunes is being blamed on a lot more than just natural disasters.
According to Eric Nobel, of the Orange, California based consulting firm The Car Lab, both Honda and Toyota are losing ground, because their products haven’t been competitive in crucial market segments since the first half of the last decade. He particularly cites Toyota’s slipping quality control and the widespread recalls that have tarnished its reputation among American consumers, as well as Honda’s lack of innovation.
Although the Camry is still currently the best-selling car in America, it’s market share of the mid-size sedan segment has been dropping since 2008. Currently it’s around 9.6 percent, that contrasts sharply with 14.2 percent a couple of years ago.
Toyota’s Corolla and Honda’s Civic and Accord haven’t fared much better. Even Consumer Reports, which once championed these cars as the top of the list when it came to recommended buys, didn’t rate a single one of them as a top pick in it’s most recent findings, instead choosing cars such as the Hyundai Sonata and Nissan Altima over the former ‘favorites.’
Even domestic brands such as Ford and Chevrolet, once dismissed by many, are making a comeback. According to Edmunds.com, some 14.3 percent of people normally shopping for a Civic are looking at the new 2012 Focus as an alternative, while more than 10 percent are considering the Chevy Cruze.
Neverthless, Toyota says that it is “not going to stand still,” according to U.S. spokesman Joe Tetherow and will be “coming back with something significant.” That something will likely comprise a range of new or significantly updated models, including a next generation Camry.
Whether it will be enough to win back customers and turn the tide of flagging sales remains to be seen.
Speaking to its US dealers, American Honda Motor Co has said that they can resume taking orders of smaller, made in Japan offerings such as the Fit subcompact and Insight Hybrid.
The news comes as consumers in the US continue to look for more fuel efficient vehicles as gas prices hover around the $4 per gallon mark. Acorrding to American Honda’s Executive Vice President John Mendel, the company has “turned the corner,” when it comes fixing supply issues that followed in the wake of the March 11 earthquake in Japan. As a result, he expects production to return to “almost normal levels,” by August.
The news is welcome relief for dealers, whose supply of smaller cars was running desperately low in some cases. Mendel reiterated that dealers still needed to be aggressive on the sales and marketing front to move metal, even if stockpiles are returning to normal levels.
As a result of parts and vehicle shortages, Honda’s sales were down by some 22 percent in May. Although Fit production is back on track, supply of the company’s most popular cars in the US, the Civic and four-cylinder Accord, still remains limited.
[Source: Automotive News]
The first American built Honda car rolled of the line in 1982, and 28 years later, Honda has finally reached a significant milestone in North America, building more cars in the United States than in Japan.
From April to June of 2010, Honda built 236,819 vehicles in America while producing 236, 559 in Japan. American Honda started with one Ohio plant in 1979, that built Accord sedans, but now includes 8 auto plants across the United States as well as one in Canada. In addition to the Accord, cars like the Civic, Odyssey, Ridgeline, CR-V, Acura TL, Acura MDX and Acura RDX are now built in North America. Not bad for one of the smaller Japanese auto makers.