Honda (NYSE:HMC) said on Wednesday that its U.S. sales rose 4%, a solid gain driven by strong sales of crossover SUVs and of Honda's premium Acura brand.
That's a better gain than some rivals managed. But like most of its rivals in this shifting market, Honda's underlying numbers were a mixed bag. Here are three key takeaways from Honda's latest report.
Sales of crossover SUVs are booming
We've heard this story at many automakers: More and more buyers are looking to replace their sedans with crossover SUVs. Today's best crossovers offer car-like handling and close-to-car-like fuel economy, with more cargo space, and an upright seating position that many drivers prefer.
Few automakers have done better with small crossovers that Honda, which practically defined the category with its compact CR-V. Honda is now looking to build on the CR-V's success with its newest crossover SUV, the HR-V. Introduced in the U.S. just last month, the Fit-based HR-V posted good sales of more than 7,700 units in June.
That number could grow significantly in time. But so far, those new HR-Vs haven't dented sales of the one-size-up CR-V crossover, which remains one of the brand's stalwarts. Sales of the CR-V rose 8.5%, to 28.349, in June.
Overall, sales of Honda's "trucks," which include its Odyssey minivan, as well as its SUVs and crossovers, rose 18% in June. That's good news, because Honda's car sales have been soft.
Sales of Honda's iconic cars are slumping
At least in the U.S., the compact Civic and midsize Accord sedans are Honda's stalwarts, iconic nameplates that have done much to build the brand's terrific reputation with American consumers during the last few decades. But right now, sales of both are slumping.
Accord sales were off 15% in June, while Civic sales fell 11%. They remain two of Honda's three biggest sellers -- the CR-V is the other -- and key cornerstones of its U.S. business. But right now, it looks as though many customers who might have bought Accords or Civics in past years are opting for Honda's crossovers, instead.
The story is a bit different with Honda's smallest sedan, the Fit. Like the HR-V, the 2015 Honda Fit is a new model, built in an all-new factory in Mexico. The HR-V is outselling its sedan sibling by a significant margin, but the new Fit is handily outselling the old one: Sales in June were up 26% over year-ago totals.
But Acura is moving a lot of sedans right now
It's a different story at Acura. The upscale brand doesn't quite compete in the top tier of luxury cars, but it shows well against premium-ish offerings from brands like Volvo and General Motors' Buick.
June sales of Acura's TLX and ILX sedans were more than double Acura's total sedan sales from a year ago. Both models are gaining momentum -- but the brand's top seller continues to be the compact RDX crossover SUV, a mechanical sibling of the CR-V (and the Civic and ILX sedans) that's built alongside the CR-V in a Honda factory in Ohio. A refreshed version of the RDX was released earlier this year, and sales have been strong -- up 45% in June.
The upshot: Honda's solid lineup continues to deliver
Market momentum has moved away from the Accord and Civic, Honda's longtime mainstays. But while Honda has never had major success with big SUVs, it has carved out a strong niche with its compact CR-V crossover.
Its move to build on that success with the HR-V is looking awfully smart right now. Despite declining demand for its sedans, Honda looks as well-positioned as ever to generate good profits in its North American business unit.