The new Honda Accord has been lauded by the automotive press for its design, improved ride and interior, and noticeable increases in fuel economy. In fact, the Accord has been named North American Car of the Year. But dealers are struggling to move the new Accord off lots.
In February, sales of the Accord dropped 15.8 percent when compared to the year before. According to Automotive News, inventory levels of the Accord stood at a 104-day supply at the beginning of this month - very high by Honda's sparse count. Some dealers have been turning away shipments from the Marysville, Ohio plant.
"Where lease is heavy, like Florida, New York, Ohio and California, that's where we're getting hurt. When you get two cars as close as they are, it's not that much better than the Camry that people are going to pay $50, $60 [or] $80 more a month," said Rick Case, CEO of Rick Case Automotive Group.
One of Case's dealers in Florida has more than 600 Accords in stock, about 200 more than its usual stock. They have turned away some Accords in January an February. Sources told Automotive News that dealers in the Miami area have turned down around 1,000 Accords since they have too many sitting on their lots.
One reason is how consumers are trending towards to crossovers over midsize sedans. But dealers who spoke with Automotive News say there is another reason - the lack of attractive leasing options. The new Accord has a higher starting price than the previous-generation model which in turn raises the price of a lease. Honda's website lists a 36-month lease for the base Accord LX at $249 per month with a $3,199 down payment. Meanwhile, Toyota is offering a 36-month Camry LE lease in the Detroit area for $229 per month with a $1,999 down payment. In other regions, the Camry deal becomes even sweeter. In the Miami area, Toyota is offering a 36-month Camry LE lease for $199 per month with a $3,198 down payment.
The various accolades and high-quality that have been key Accord attributes aren't working at the moment.
"The quality gap has narrowed between the domestics, Honda and Toyota. When you're buying a car, you have a great story to tell a customer. When you're leasing, they say, 'Well, it has at least three years of warranty on it.' They're just renting it anyway. It is an uphill battle," said a Honda dealer in the Detroit area.
Dave Conant, owner of Conant Auto Retail Group which has four Honda dealers in California says he understand why Honda isn't throwing money at the Accord at the moment due to big investment to get it on the road. But he wouldn't be shocked if the automaker offers some sort of incentive support, especially in terms of leases later in the year.
"I'll be surprised if we don't see some help in April or May. They're not going to let the car sit on the lot. Without the incentive support, the payment from the car [that customers are] trading to the new one — the gap is too large. They need to do something to bring that closer, and the car will start selling and leasing well again," said Conant.
Source: Automotive News (Subscription Required)