Saturday, June 11, 2011

Post-quake Honda says it now has lots of Fits, Insights for dealers

Honda offered a terrific sign this week that it is finally getting back on its feet in the U.S. after the March earthquake and tsunami that drastically slashed production.

It is now telling dealers that they can resume ordering two of the most in-demand models -- the small Honda Fit and the hybrid Insight, Automotive News reports.

The two models, both made in Japan, have been among the most in-demand as gas rose to an average of nearly $4 a gallon. The Fit is the smallest car that Honda sells in the U.S. and comes recommended by Consumer Reports. The Insight is the brand's underrated hybrid, a competitor to Toyota's Prius.

"Honda's manufacturing operations in Japan are returning to nearly normalized levels by the end of summer," said John Mendel, executive vice president of Honda's U.S. sales operation in a memo to Honda dealers. Adding back Fit and Insight "represents a major improvement from the recovery timetable we provided you last month."

Honda stopped orders on the models after the earthquake. Honda didn't incur major damange to its factories in Japan, but it has been badly impacted by the shortage of parts that has hampered other automakers, including those in the U.S.

In fact, Mendel is downright bullish. Noting that other models like the Pilot SUV, Odyssey minivan and CR-V small crossover are coming back to normal production levels, he implored dealers, "it is imperative that you keep your foot on the sales pedal."

It won't be easy: Sales fell 22% in May compared with a year ago, the News notes.


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