To figure out why Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (NYSE: HMC) continues to be a threat to the market shares of Toyota Corp. (NYSE: TM), Chrysler and Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F), there is no need to look beyond its product line-up. It had three of the 20 best-selling vehicles in May. And its dominance has been earned without a full-sized pickup, which is a huge advantage for each one of the Big Three.
The top-selling vehicles in America were pickups. With the exception of Toyota’s Camry, the Ford F-Series, Chevy Silverado and Chrysler’s Ram outsell any car. Just below them in sales are a dozen cars that are relatively small, inexpensive and fuel-efficient. Manufacturers cannot do well without a significant presence in this portion of the market.
Honda’s model line covers each of the segments that make up most of the top 20 sellers. Its Accord, part of the mid-sized, high gas mileage portion of the market was the fourth best-selling vehicle in the United States last month. It comes in four versions — a coupe, a sedan, a plug-in and a hybrid. That is as broad a spread of models as any other brand has. And the Accord is cheap, with a base price of $23,625. Honda sold 38,107 Accords last month.
Honda sold 36,089 Civic models in May. The Civic comes in seven versions, which, like the Accord, include a coupe, sedan and hybrid. It sits in the low-priced small car segment and has a price tag as low as $18,190. It was the seventh best-selling vehicle in the United States last month.
The tenth best-selling vehicle in the United States last month was Honda’s tiny SUV, the CR-V. Honda sold 32,430 of these. The CR-V has a base price of $23,120, and has a hybrid version.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Honda’s success is that it only offers six vehicles in America. That is far fewer than Ford, GM, Chrysler and even Nissan. It has leveraged its small model line into a dominant position, which makes it extraordinary among major manufacturers.
Honda has at least two advantages that help it. The first is how cleverly it has positioned its vehicles among the segments of the market that represent the most sales among cars, light trucks, sports cars and SUV/Crossovers. The other is that it has established a level of brand quality that can only be matched by Toyota. In the most recent J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study, it had six vehicles (virtually its entire model line, its Acura luxury brand included) to Toyota’s seven (which includes its Lexus luxury line) to GM’s eight. Of course, GM has more brands and more models than any other car company selling vehicles in the United States.
It is reasonable to say that Honda management has done a better job of making and positioning vehicles in America than any other company. It has leveraged this into sales per model that are almost certainly the envy of its competitors.