That's the message Honda sent in 2016 with its U.S. sales performance. As the industry groaned under the pressure of clocking a seventh straight annual sales increase -- 0.3 percent this time -- the Honda division grew 4.8 percent.
And it did so with hardly any sales to rental fleets, well-below-average incentive spending and a thinner lineup than most of its rivals, a feat that bodes well for Honda in 2017, even if the rest of the industry flags.
The results are vindication for Honda, which has long explained its ho-hum growth rates by contrasting itself with competitors that are more aggressive in their pursuit of volume and market share.
And they reflect one of the industry's most potent product mixes, the result of Honda's more disciplined focus on fielding top-notch vehicles in segments where it can thrive. This means ignoring potentially lucrative segments such as full-size trucks and SUVs, premium SUVs, sports cars and large cars. But it also means regular rollouts of core vehicles that are at the top of their segments in execution and planning.
"It's a great time to be a Honda dealer," said Jim Lake, dealer principal at Vern Eide Honda in Sioux Falls, S.D., and current chairman of Honda's dealer advisory board. "The product lineup has never been like this ever, and the cadence that is happening has been phenomenal."
Just a couple years ago, some Honda dealers grumbled about the stingy incentive policy, especially as it applied to slow-moving niche vehicles such as the Crosstour wagon, the Insight hybrid and the CR-Z sporty hybrid. But such vehicles are out of the lineup now, allowing Honda to focus its resources on its high-volume nameplates.
Take, for example, the fifth-generation Odyssey that was unveiled at the Detroit auto show earlier this month, which highlights what Honda can do when it has its engineering mojo working for it. Features like highly configurable seats, a camera trained on the rear passengers and downloadable smartphone apps for users to control their climate and entertainment experience will give the 2018 Odyssey a well-honed arsenal with which to battle the Toyota Sienna and Chrysler Pacifica.
People are noticing. As Honda introduced the redesigned Odyssey in Detroit this month, it was celebrating its North American Truck of the Year award for the 2017 Ridgeline midsize pickup, an encore to its Car of the Year honor in 2016 for the redesigned Civic. Honda last year topped Google's ranking of most-searched car brands in the U.S., and six Honda models were the most-searched vehicles in their segments on Edmunds.com.
Honda's current perch marks a long trek up from 2011. At the time, Honda was reeling from the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit Japan, putting a sizable dent in sales and market share, just as the Detroit 3 were staging their recovery.
Then Honda released the ninth-generation Civic for the 2012 model year. Developed in the midst of a global financial crisis for budget-minded consumers, it reeked of austerity, with cheap interior materials and poor driving manners. It was summarily booted from Consumer Reports' coveted Recommended List harshly criticized by other critics for its bare-bones quality.
"I think it really heightened their awareness of how product-thirsty the consumer is," Lake said of the 2012 Civic ordeal. "Sometimes the best deal isn't the best deal. The best car is the best deal."