The American Honda Motor Company posted record sales of light trucks in June, bolstered by soaring purchases of vehicles made at the automaker's Lincoln plant. The growth is part of a continuing trend of improvement for the auto industry that should ensure local Honda employees have plenty of work for the foreseeable future.
According to American Honda, the Japan-based automaker had its best June sales of light trucks since 2007. Light trucks include the Pilot SUV, the Odyssey minivan and the Ridgeline pickup, all of which are produced solely at Honda Manufacturing of Alabama in Lincoln. The growth in Honda’s light truck sales led to a 9.7 increase in total vehicles sold in June compared to the same month last year.
The rise in vehicle purchases led to increased work for local Honda employees, said Samantha Corona, spokeswoman for HMA.
"At Honda, we are pleased to see the demand for our light trucks continue to increase and we have scheduled some production overtime in an effort to meet that customer demand," Corona said.
The Honda plant in Lincoln employs more than 4,000 people.
Honda's report shows the Pilot had its best June since 2005, with sales up 21.3 percent compared to June last year. Sales of the Odyssey were up 26 percent in June compared to the same month last year with 14,207 of the vehicles sold. Also, Honda sold 1,572 Ridgelines in June, a 32.7 percent increase from those sold in the same month last year.
Bill Visnic, auto industry analyst and senior editor for Edmunds.com, said Honda's success is on par with the rest of the industry.
"Generally, what we're seeing across the industry is a mini-surge in truck crossover sales ... trucks and utility vehicles are very strong," Visnic said.
Visnic said a variety of factors are contributing to the boost in sales of light trucks.
"There is a lot of new, refreshed product with a bit better fuel economy than what has been seen with these types of vehicles," Visnic said. "Families are looking at these vehicles to have a lighter footprint on their fuel budgets."
Visnic added that there are still consumers who held off buying a new car during the recession and are now finally in the market to purchase a larger vehicle like the Odyssey.
"They are getting back in because they've held off as long as possible and can now afford to get that little bigger vehicle," he said.
Robyn Eagles, public relations manager for Honda brand in America, agreed with Visnic's assessment of light trucks' success.
"It's more of a market issue," Eagles said. "All trucks are up this month for manufacturers ... it seems to be a swing in taste."
The sales boost benefitted the local Honda plant and its workers, but it also helped local dealership Sunny King Honda in Anniston.
"We had an outstanding June month," said Kevin Riggan, general manager of Sunny King Honda in Anniston. "It's been great all around for trucks."
Riggan said such vehicles tend to sell better during the summer months.
"It's vacation season and it always picks up during vacation season for vehicles like that," he said. "But also, they're built right here down the road ... they've got lots of employees doing an awesome job getting us product."
The sales figures are the latest in a string of successes for the local auto plant. Honda announced late last month that it will soon add 20 jobs as part of a $48.4 million expansion effort at the Lincoln plant to make more fuel-efficient engines.
In the last two years, Honda has invested around $400 million and added about 400 jobs at the plant to produce the Acura MDX luxury SUV and increase engine manufacturing output. The facility began production of the Acura MDX for the first time at the beginning of May.
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.