Traverse City Record-Eagle

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January 16, 2014

U.S. exec: Honda's goal is to get more 'Fit' in 2014

DETROIT (AP) — Honda is feeling Fit in the U.S. as it enters 2014.

For starters, there’s the subcompact of that name, which has undergone an overhaul. The new model was unveiled Monday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The automaker promises the car — once the top-selling subcompact in the U.S. but now a laggard — will be faster, more efficient and roomier.

Then there’s Acura, its luxury brand, which on Tuesday unveiled a “performance luxury sedan” called the TLX. The carmaker hopes it complements strong players such as the RDX and MDX, which have enjoyed successive months of sales increases. But officials also acknowledge that it might entail untangling some alphabet soup for prospective customers.

Also, can the Accord unseat the reigning midsize-car king, Toyota’s Camry? John Mendel, the company’s executive vice president in the U.S., offered his thoughts on the battle for buyers and prospects for new products in an interview this week with reporters.

His comments are edited for length and clarity.

Q: Is subcompact market, up only 4 percent last year, going to gain much traction?

Mendel: Depending on who you listen to, the forecasts are 4 to 8 percent in that market. So it’s less about the opportunistic view of how much the market is going to grow as much as really looking at what Fit has been able to do with relatively little attention from a marketing or incentive standpoint. It’s doing 50,000 units a year, with capacity constrained.

One of the areas we’ve focused on besides keeping Fit ‘fit’ is making it bigger on the inside than the old one, and offering more cargo space, leg room, and seat room yet in a smaller package in terms of body size.

And then we’re really focusing on something that the subcompact class has failed to deliver on, which is ride, handling and general highway comfort.

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