Can SEMA Raise Honda Ridgeline's Profile with Enthusiasts?
By: Mike Magda Posted: 11-01-05 21:50
© 2005

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Despite reports of slugglish sales and production cuts, Honda’s chief product boss said the new Ridgeline pickup is paying its dues as a new truck and is on pace to meet sales goals.

John Mendel, senior vice president for automobile operations, told that early sales are not disappointing eight months after the Ridgeline went on sale.

“We’re brand new to the truck market and it’s a very loyal market,” said Mendel after giving the main address at a Monday (Oct. 31, 2005) luncheon to help kick off the SEMA Show in Las Vegas. “Our sales have continued to uptick—other than September—every month since we launched the truck.”

According to Automotive News, total Ridgeline sales were 25,787 through September. But Mendel said October sales will reflect a pace the company intended for the Ridgeline. When the truck was introduced to the media, officials projected first-year sales of 50,000 units. That equates to just under 4,200 units a month.

“We’ll do well over that in October,” said Mendel.

Just a few days earlier, Honda officials announced that Ridgeline production would be cut by 3,000 units in the first quarter of 2006. The truck is produced at the Alliston, Ontario, plant in Canada. Automotive News reports that current inventory is over 100 days. Normal levels are around 50 to 60 days.

The Ridgeline has been the target of considerable praise from the media and scorn from Internet forums. It recently scored the best rollover-resistant rating and is high on Consumer Reports expected reliability list. But truck enthusiasts have blasted the high starting price when compared with other midsized crew cab pickups or the lack of a V8 when compared to fullsize crew cabs.

“We’re selling exactly what we set out to sell,” said Mendel. “We targeted a specific use for that truck, more of a personal use vehicle, and I think we’ve captured that well.”

Mendel said there are no plans to offer incentives to spur sales.
“We’re coming in with a vehicle that has virtually no incentives into a market that can have up to $5,500 a vehicle,” said Mendel. “We don’t have huge million-sales objectives. We are right on track where we want to be.

“There’s no panic. We’re just brand new to this market,” he added. “We’re going to carve out our piece of (the truck market) with the people who want something unique.”

Honda is the featured manufacturer of the SEMA Show and will have numerous Ridgelines on display. We found two in the front show arena. One was customized by a Team Honda motocross team using a Truxxx 2-inch lift kit and KMC wheels. The flames were courtesy of Kelly & Sons Crazy Painters. A silver-toned Ridgeline was next to it but didn’t have any build information. However, it was clear that a lot of work went into cleaning up the grille, which has been one of the styling sore spots for many Ridgeline critics.

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For more photos of the Honda Ridgeline from SEMA 2005, visit the SEMA 2005 Honda Ridgeline photo gallery.