Honda Automobiles: Honda 2014 Detroit Auto Show – 2015 Fit Introduction Executive Remarks

John Mendel
Executive Vice President Auto Sales, American Honda

After a strong 2013 … I think the entire industry has a lot to love.

At least that’s the spirit we’re bringing to 2014.

We’re very excited about the year ahead …with an important and fun new product being unveiled here today for a new generation of buyers … the all-new 2015 Fit.

But also because 2013 was a banner year for the Honda brand … that is providing tremendous momentum we’re carrying forward into 2014.

We set a new all-time sales record for December, and came darn close to setting a new all-time sales record for the entire year … with Civic posting its 3rd best year in its 40-year history … Accord with its best showing since 2008 … and CR-V topping 300-thousand units for the first time.

In fact, Civic, CR-V and Accord combined to achieve sales of more than one million new retail customers.

And when the official December registration numbers come out in a few weeks, you can bet that four of our highest volume models … Civic, Accord, CR-V and Odyssey … will rank number one in retail sales in their respective segments.

That’s because our sales momentum is not based on the discount budget of a fleet manager.

Our momentum is real … and driven by the purchase decisions of individual customers.

And our commitment to retail sales supports the long-term value of our products and protects the investment and good faith our customers place in Honda.

It’s why the Honda brand continued to be honored last year … such as a sixth consecutive ALG Residual Value award, and second straight KBB Most Trusted Brand award.

At the foundation of our success, of course, are innovative new products … like the ninth-generation Accord, which earned its 28th Car and Driver Ten-Best title and the 2014 Green Car of the Year … and also the newly-launched and even sportier, more fuel-efficient and well-equipped 2014 Civic … now America’s best-selling compact car three years running.

Industry-leading quality and reliability is also part of the foundation of the Honda brand.

According to Polk vehicle registration statistics, Honda vehicles are the most durable and longest lasting of any mainstream automotive brand… with an industry best 75 percent of all Honda vehicles sold in the last 25 years still on the road.

In addition to our sales accomplishments, we capped off the year by leading the industry in both fuel economy and safety. And that’s no easy feat!

According to the EPA, American Honda had the highest fuel-economy, lowest CO2 emissions and largest single year MPG increase of any major automaker.

And this leadership is only going to grow as we accelerate the deployment of new Earth Dreams Technology engines, transmissions and electric drive systems. 

This includes application of the very unique two-motor hybrid system that powers the 50-miles-per-gallon Accord Hybrid … the first, but by no means the last … Honda vehicle to employ that system.

And on the Safety front … IIHS rolled out its revised safety ratings for 2014 … and our Honda and Acura brands remained at the very top … with an industry-leading six TOP SAFETY PICK-PLUS models, more than any other company.

Delivering both fuel economy and safety at industry-leading levels … and doing it while strengthening value for the customer in terms of performance, features and technology … speaks volumes to the core capabilities of Honda.

So … we’ve got great momentum. And we will further strengthen our leadership position in safety, in fuel-efficiency, and in fun-to-drive performance based on a clear product strategy … that we will execute step-by-step over the next 3-4 years.

You could say we’re more focused than ever on what we’re best at … and what our customers and fans really love about us … and that means innovative powertrain and packaging technologies.

This will help us drive future sales growth by aligning our products with the growth opportunities in today’s marketplace.

Nowhere is this strategy more evident … and our capability more clear… than with the vehicle we are introducing today.

Honda first made its mark in America with a sub-compact car.

But for the past several years, we just haven’t had the supply to take full advantage of our opportunities in the marketplace.

That all changes next month with the start-up of production at Honda’s eighth and newest auto plant in North America, in Celaya, Mexico.

This will mean that more than 98 percent of the Honda brand vehicles we sell in America will be built in North America.

And it will establish a strong base … here in North America … for production of high-value, high-quality subcompact vehicles that we need to attract a new generation of buyers.

There is nothing small about our thinking for this growing segment of the market.

A year ago …right here on this stage …we showed you a new compact SUV that, like Fit, is part of our Global Compact Series.

It will come to market late this year and both will be built at our new plant in Mexico.

I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say that no one … I mean no one … does small cars like Honda.

Look no further than the first two generations of Fit, which earned a spot on Car and Driver’s Ten Best list for seven straight years from its introduction in 2006.

For years, Fit has set the standard in the subcompact class … in sporty performance, outstanding fuel economy, safety and the very flexible and spacious interior.

With great powertrains and remarkable packaging, it represents the best of Honda in one tidy package.

We have no intention of changing that formula … just taking it to new heights.

The new Honda Fit is already the best-selling car in Japan, where it was introduced last Fall … So, we have a lot of confidence in this new model.

We’re excited to bring to market a 2015 Honda Fit that’s more functional, fuel-efficient and fun to drive than ever before.

And, as you’ll see … it’s a vehicle with capabilities as diverse as the lifestyles of our customers.

[Fit Reveal]

With a more energetic and sporty fascia … and sharp lines that emphasize its aerodynamic profile … Fit has sleek and modern exterior styling.

A larger 16-inch tire … outfitted with a new 5-spoke wheel design … gives Fit a planted and sporty look … while rear reflectors and LED taillights highlight the rear design that provides Fit a more aggressive stance. 

Underneath is an all-new platform … 57 pounds lighter due to the extensive use of high and ultra-high strength steel … which further advances sporty performance, more nimble handling and fuel efficiency … while enabling us to add new feature content important to our customers.

Retaining a similar exterior footprint to the current model, the new Fit is an inch and a half shorter … but thanks to Honda packaging magic … rear legroom has increased by almost 5 inches … and passenger volume grows by almost five cubic feet! 

And when it comes to cargo space … Fit has no rival … with 52.7 cubic feet of space with a 2nd row 60 / 40 split Magic Seat that folds down flat.

Fit is a true packaging marvel…somehow bigger on the inside than it is on the outside!

Under the hood is an all-new 1.5-liter direct injected engine …  generating 13 more horsepower than the outgoing model … as well as an increase of 8 pound-feet of torque.

The engine is mated with two all-new transmissions … either a short-shifting 6-speed manual that is a lot of fun to drive, or a sporty and fuel-efficient new CVT.

While delivering greater acceleration …the new powertrain, more lightweight body and more aerodynamic form help the ’15 Fit deliver an estimated 33 / 41 / 36 miles per gallon city / highway / combined.

And with our next-generation ACE body structure to provide outstanding collision protection, we anticipate earning a NHTSA 5-star overall vehicle score and a GOOD rating in all of the IIHS crash test modes, further advancing our record of safety leadership.

Now … if there is a big opportunity in the sub-compact segment, it’s in improving handling and ride comfort … especially in highway driving.

And this new Fit delivers outstanding comfort and quiet, while also improving handling and fun-to-drive performance.

There are new front and rear suspensions, a more rigid body and a host of new noise-reducing design features.

Interior refinement is also significantly enhanced … with higher-quality finishes and soft-touch materials.

Loaded up with new technology and features this car is anything but standard:
Bluetooth, USB connectivity, and a rear view camera with normal, wide and top-down views.

All of it is standard! 

Finally … the Fit will apply our next-generation HondaLink … which debuted on the 2014 Honda Civic … with a 7-inch, Display Audio touchscreen with smartphone connectivity.

This lets the customer tap, swipe and pinch their way through a huge variety of entertainment and information options.

And with the new HondaLink, customers can opt for an in-dash navigation system that is powered by the driver’s smartphone … for less than sixty dollars.

By the way … this new generation of HondaLink also gives Fit and Civic our first factory-installed application of Apple Siri Eyes Free … delivering the kind of smart and intuitive connectivity that will appeal to a new generation of buyers.

Other premium features coming to Fit… include smart entry with push button start, and leather-trimmed heated seats… and our highly popular Honda LaneWatch blind spot display system.

I could go on … but let me conclude by simply saying that the Fit is a small car with big aspirations for a new generation of buyers.

Faster, more fuel-efficient and more fun … it is a subcompact with super capabilities.

A magically-packaged, do-everything, ready-to-rip, space wonder of a car.

It’s simply the best Fit ever and a new benchmark in the segment.