January 11, 2011 / 12:48 AM / 9 years ago

Honda counts on new Civic to reignite sales

DETROIT (Reuters) - Honda Motor Co (7267.T) is counting on a new version of its Civic small car that will go on sale this spring to drive gains in 2011 after losing sales and market share to rivals in 2010.

American Honda Motors introduces its new Honda Civic concept vehicle during press preview day at Cobo Center of the North American International Auto show in Detroit, Michigan January 10, 2011. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Honda showed off two concept versions of the upcoming Civic coupe and sedan that executives said were very close to the production version of the vehicles that will arrive in U.S. showrooms this spring as a 2012 model.

John Mendel, Honda U.S. chief sales executive, said he was counting on energized sales in 2011 from the ninth-generation of the Civic, which has been sold in the United States since 1972.

Mendel, speaking to reporters at the Detroit auto show, said the Civic would compete in a compact car market that is more crowded than before. New entrants include the new Ford Focus and the Chevrolet Cruze.

“From Honda’s standpoint, it really kind of sharpens our spirit of competition,” Mendel said. “For years we’ve been several laps ahead in a 500 mile race. Now, there’s more and more competitors approaching the same lap as we are.”

Honda trailed every major automaker in the U.S. market in 2010 with the exception of Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T), which had a series of recalls that damaged Toyota’s reputation for safety and quality.

Including its luxury Acura brand, Honda’s U.S. sales rose 7 percent in 2010, against an industrywide gain of 11 percent. Sales of Honda-brand cars like the Civic, which account for over half of overall U.S. sales, were down 1.2 percent.

The Civic is Honda’s second-best selling vehicle in the U.S. market behind the Accord, and accounts for just over 20 percent of its sales.

As automakers strive to meet more stringent U.S. fuel economy standards going into force in 2016, the compact and subcompact segments are “going to receive a lot more attention,” said Mendel,

The No. 4 automaker by sales in the U.S. market, Honda’s sales including its Acura luxury brand were 1.23 million vehicles in 2010. Honda’s share of the U.S. market dropped to 10.6 percent from 11 percent in 2009.

Mendel declined to forecast Civic sales in 2011.

The Civic gasoline version will get about 40 miles per gallon, Honda representatives estimated. Its mileage has not yet been certified by U.S. officials.

Reporting by Bernie Woodall

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