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U.S. Honda sales strong in December

By Dave McMahon

U.S. sales up 3 percent in Q4 2016

The side-by-side market gets special treatment this month in our Focus section, but the more I kept hearing from Pioneer dealers about the strength in sales of Honda’s flagship, the more I wanted to talk to Chuck Boderman to find out more about American Honda’s place in that space.

Boderman, vice president of the Powersports Division at American Honda Motor Co., obliged as usual, and during our conversation we learned that Q4 2016 saw the company’s North American sales decrease 1.4 percent compared to Q4 2015. However, American Honda’s U.S. sales were up 3 percent during the quarter.

“We definitely saw a turn in both dealer and consumer sentiment post-election,” Boderman told Powersports Business. “I’m not going to say it was a corrective turn, but it was a turn nonetheless. We ended the year very strong and set a bunch of records for December.”

In fact, December was the strongest four-wheel month for American Honda since 2008, mainly driven by side-by-side sales. “But even for ATV in December month-on-month, it was our best December for a couple of years. And two-wheel was up for December for Honda,” Boderman said. “It was nice to end on a high note like that just because it’s been so uncertain between the politics we dealt with this year, the economy, and add some bad weather in some regions. To top it off we had the two earthquakes in Kumamoto affecting our supply chain, so we sharpened our skills and worked closely with our dealers in confronting these challenges. It’s nice to be rewarded with a strong December and gaining share, both two wheel and four wheel.”

For the calendar year 2016 in the U.S., American Honda saw a 3.3 sales increase for powersports. That includes being up single digits with two-wheel product, up double digits for side-by-side and down single digits for ATV.

“With ATV, the industry was down single digits and we were down single digits, so we maintained overall the top runner,” Boderman said.

Boosted by the Pioneer 1000, Honda’s top-selling side-by-side, the brand saw double-digit growth in that segment in 2016. The slight growth in the powersports industry “was not as strong as we had hoped for 2016,” Boderman said. “For 2017 we are thinking a slow recovery again, with ultimately all the fundamentals being right in place. We’re planning on the powersports industry being low single digits growth, and we would be outpacing it, especially with motorcycle and side-by-side, again this year.”

ATV sales remain about one-third of American Honda’s business, with the Rancher 420 remaining the best seller. Boderman reports that the side-by-side market is approaching 25 percent of American Honda’s business portfolio.

“We’ll be approaching a 1:1 ratio over the course of the next couple of years between ATV and side-by-side while maintaining a balanced sales mix between motorcycle and ORV,” Boderman said.

The motorcycle side has benefitted from the Africa Twin, and the popular adventure segment will get another boost from the 2017 CRF250L Rally model, releasing this spring. Share gains have also been made in the on-road 300-650cc class that targets entry-level riders. New 300 and 500 class Rebels will be coming to market soon as well to add strength to this mix. Additionally, the January release of the CRF450R and RX has seen those bikes “knocking it out of the park,” Boderman added. 

 

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