It’s rare in the auto business to get a juicy interview like the one the Detroit News bagged from a top Honda executive at the New York auto show. It’s even better when that executive is trash-talking a rival company. Add some allegations and an expletive—and wham! Instant news.
“I don’t really give a damn about Nissan. I really don’t,” John Mendel, executive vice president for automotive operations at Honda, told reporters. Mendel was fuming over Nissan sales, which he claims are inflated with fleet deliveries versus the retail-only numbers Honda releases each month. He even charged Nissan with artificially goosing its performance: “They have a whole systematic group of people who go into the dealers on the 20th of the month based on what Nissan needs to beat Honda and forces the dealer to put an additional 10 or 15 rental cars in service.”
Although Honda does sell to fleets, it doesn’t operate a formal fleet sales department and allocates only about 2 percent of all U.S. sales to fleets, compared to around 10 percent at Toyota and 28 percent at General Motors (the numbers can fluctuate by several points month to month). Nissan denied the allegations, with a spokesman claiming its fleet sales were “less than 17 percent.” In August, Mendel made a similar rebuke against Toyota when he cited the Accord’s retail sales beating the Camry, despite Toyota claiming the number-one spot in overall sales.
Just how bad did Mendel’s New York interview go? Let’s put it this way: He ended the conversation with: “This is probably the last interview that PR is going to let me do.” It’s worth a read.
2015 New York auto show full coverage