Honda cites weather for 1.7% decline; Civic surges

Facing challenges from both calendar and climate, American Honda Motor Co. reported 100,497 sales for January, a 1.7 percent decrease from a year earlier.

Rainstorms on the West Coast and a blizzard in the East combined with two fewer selling days and one less weekend to put a kink in what might have been a record month for American Honda, the automaker said.

The Honda brand did eke out a January record: This year’s 90,247-vehicle tally was 45 units above the record set last January. The brand attributed much of that to the strength of the 10th-generation Civic sedan, which rose 43 percent over last year.

“As anticipated, the revamped Honda Civic had a spectacular month,” said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst for Autotrader. “Honda finally got this Civic right, and that has been acknowledged by critics. Winning the North American Car of the Year award at the start of the month certainly gave it a boost.”

The Honda Accord used its recent midlife refresh to hold sales essentially flat, with the family sedan dropping just 1.2 percent.

Curiously, the Honda brand’s light-truck sales were down 10 percent despite low oil and gasoline prices. The CR-V dropped 17 percent, and the Pilot was down 31 percent. The only bright spot among Honda’s light trucks was the bite-size HR-V, which wasn’t on sale this time last year.

The automaker blamed the decline on weather that shut down its biggest sales regions, a factor analysts also cited. “Honda sells well in the mid-Atlantic states where the Jonas blizzard hit over a weekend near the end of January,” Krebs said.

Things were less rosy for Acura. American Honda’s luxury division posted a 15 percent decline with 10,250 total sales.

The RLX sedan dropped 44 percent; and the TLX sedan, 23 percent. Acura’s normally stalwart crossovers didn’t help either: The MDX was down 18 percent, and the RDX lost 12 percent.

Acura’s only reason to smile was the strength of its ILX entry-level sedan, which cruised to a 24 percent increase over January 2015.

Despite tepid light-truck sales, American Honda resisted boosting incentives. The automaker averaged just $1,798 in incentives per vehicle for January, according to TrueCar.com estimates. That’s lower than every other major automaker, except for Subaru, and well below the $2,932 industry average.

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