Honda wants to two million cars in the U.S. in 2016, but it's not looking only to the blockbuster Civic or Accord models to puff up the sales sheets. Instead, Honda President Takanobu Ito is hoping that a new generation of Honda Fit hatchback--made in the company's new Mexican plant--can make up the difference.
The Fit's had a decently good ride over the past six years: it sold 27,934 units during its first year of American sales (2006), but that number ballooned to 79,794 in 2008 as gas prices jumped and customers looked to downsize their rides without sacrificing interior space. The second-generation model went on sale in Fall 2008 and enjoyed good sales in 2009--67,315 units--but have leveled to between 50 and 60,000 units ever since. 2011 is shaping up to be the Fit's worst year since 2007, with good reason: not only does the Fit's fuel economy leave it behind competitors (and even the Civic), Honda is limiting exports of the money-losing Fit thanks to a poor exchange rate between the Yen and Dollar.
So how will the Fit make its resurgence? Two ways: for one, President Ito promises that Honda's new Mexican plant--which will make up to 200,000 units a year and go online in 2014--will make both the Fit and as-yet-unknown Fit variants, and send the "vast majority" of them to the U.S. market – which should make Fit pricing more competitive while retaining profit margins for dealers and Honda alike. Honda also promises that the new Fit will deliver better fuel economy and better packaging. Considering the current Fit boasts both the so-called Magic Seat and surprising rear-seat headroom, that’s quite a promise.
Those forthcoming Fit variants are the second leg of the plan: while a new Fit with class-competitive pricing and better fuel economy would do well in the compact market (surely outselling the 50,000-or-so units Honda will sell here this year), Honda hopes to use the Fit platform to produce a slew of variants in hopes of catching buyers' eyes. The next Fit Hybrid--which will be the first vehicle to use the new generation of Honda Integrated Motor Assist--isn't yet confirmed for the U.S. market, but we've long heard of some sort of Fit-based CUV potentially coming to the states, where it would slot beneath the CR-V.
Can Honda quadruple Fit sales in four years? Let us know what you think in the comments below.