Honda, major Clark County employer, hits all-time sales record

Honda hit an all-time sales record in 2017, barely edging out a sales total the Japanese automaker hit the previous year.

The company sold more than 1.64 million Honda and Acura vehicles last year, a 0.2-percent improvement over 2016. Honda is one of the region’s largest employers, with about 1,400 workers from Clark and Champaign counties and employing about 13,000 Ohioans overall.

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It was the third year in a row the company set an all-time sales record, although analysts said they are predicting a decline across the auto industry in 2018 for a variety of reasons, including a cyclical industry and interest rates hikes that are expected this year.

Honda operates several plants in Ohio, and attributed the most recent sales figure in part to unveiling or refreshing several of its vehicles. The company’s 10th generation Accord, manufactured in Marysville, recently began rolling off the assembly line.

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“Eight all-new or refreshed product launches is an impressive achievement for any car company, but it put us in a strong, competitive position to maintain our unique commitment to retail sales to individual buyers,” said Henio Arcangeli Jr., senior vice president of the Automobile Division and general manager of Honda sales.

Along with its plant in Marysville, Honda also produces the Acura RDX and Honda CR-V in East Liberty. It also operates an engine plant in Anna and manufactures the Acura NSX supercar at a separate facility in Marysville. Honda also operates a distribution center in Troy.

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“In addition to Honda marking our third consecutive annual sales record, our Ohio operations saw the Marysville-built Honda Accord maintain strong demand while our East Liberty-built Honda CR-V achieved another annual sales record,” said Tom Shoupe, executive vice president at Honda of America Mfg. Inc. “Our company’s sales success is founded in our strong product cadence, built over the last three years, which has given us the most competitive lineup in history.”

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The Accord Sedan saw sales slide 6.5 percent compared to 2016. In contrast, the CR-V sport utility vehicle saw sales increase by 5.8 percent.

Consumer preference for trucks and SUVs is expected to continue for the foreseeable future, said Michelle Krebs, an analyst for Autotrader.

The auto industry overall set new sales records in 2015 and 2016. But sales from major manufacturers slipped in 2017 to 17.2 million units, down 1.8 percent from 2016’s record. Cox Automotive is predicting sales will slip again this year, she said, to about 16.7 units.

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“Part of it is it’s a cyclical industry,” Krebs said. “We had seven consecutive years of year-over-year increase and it can’t sustain that. Interest rates are going to be rising and we think there will be at least three increases this year, and that goes to the monthly payment. We do think tax reform will help a bit to offset some of those headwinds, so we just recently upped our forecast from 16.6 million units to 16.7 million.”

She also predicted a continued interest from consumers for light trucks and SUVs at the expense of sedans. Car sales made up about 39 percent of the market in 2016, she said, but slid to about 37 percent last year.

Despite Accord sales dipping, she said Toyota and Honda have avoided a more significant decline that many of their competitors have seen in sedan sales.

“While everybody else has suffered on the car side, Honda and Toyota have not experienced the plummeting of their car sales like others have,” Krebs said. “They’ve built a very solid reputation for building high-quality cars. The bell-weather will be the new Accord because it’s getting rave reviews, it’s going to win all kinds of awards and if that doesn’t do well, then the midsize sedan segment is in big trouble.”

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