Honda Beats Nissan With a CR-V Stick

Battling it out for US sales positioning.

The Renault-Nissan Alliance makes for one of the largest car manufacturers in the world, but when it comes to selling new cars in the US, Honda continues to trump Nissan. No Renault models are sold stateside, leaving Japan’s No. 2 manufacturer to battle that country’s third-largest manufacturer for US sales positioning.

Nissan easily outsells Honda globally, but in two markets — Thailand and the United States — Honda is still ahead. Though beating Honda in Thailand may be important, shedding its mostly four-decade deficit to Honda in the US seems like a never-ending quest.

2015 Honda CR-V.
2015 Honda CR-V.

Refreshed Honda CR-V

Unfortunately for Nissan, its attempt to move past Honda and to stand behind Toyota will have to wait another year. The Accord and Civic certainly are having something to do with that, but Honda’s CR-V crossover utility vehicle is what continues to keep Honda positioned just ahead of Nissan.

The Honda CR-V may not be the most spectacular compact crossover utility vehicle, but it is the segment leader, easily outselling the Toyota RAV4, Ford’s Escape and the Nissan Rogue. The CR-V is everything and more than what 300,000 annual buyers want — a highly dependable, five-passenger front- or all-wheel drive model with good fuel economy, competitive utility and strong resale values.

Earlier this year, it appeared that Nissan would finally overtake Honda on the strength of its excellent first quarter sales. However, an updated CR-V arrived later in the year and with it came a strong boost in Honda sales.

The 2015 edition represents a mid product cycle refresh, one that updates the front and rear fascia, brings in a revised engine with 11 percent more torque, and adds several new interior and safety features.

Of the CR-V, Honda called it the “…most significant mid-model cycle refresh in its history.” Essentially, it gave the CR-V a much needed tweaking, buying Honda some time as it readies a new model.

2015 Nissan Rogue
2015 Nissan Rogue.

Surging November Sales

The refresh has stoked interest in Honda’s “cute ute” with November sales surging by 37.7 compared with Nov. 2013. Honda sold 32,378 CR-Vs and has already sold 302,650 units through the first 11 months of the year for a 10 percent year-to-date gain over last year.

The comparable Nissan Rogue is seeing even greater sales increases than the Honda CR-V, but at 184,320 units sold through November 2014, it can’t make up the overall brand sales difference alone.

Through November, Honda has sold 1,253,557 units to Nissan’s 1,164,254. Honda not only reversed its 36,000-unit first quarter deficit, but it is now ahead of its Japanese rival by more than 89,000 units during this final sales month of the year.

Temporary Victory, Elusive Rebound

Nissan’s second place to Honda market position hasn’t always been an exercise in futility. In 1995, Nissan outsold Honda for the year, but quickly lost its footing the following year.

This year, Nissan’s sales are up by 12 percent through Nov. to Honda’s 1 percent increase, but it will need both new product and perhaps a Honda slump to enable it to move up once again. That battle is also going on in the premium segment where Honda’s Acura continues to outsell Nissan’s Infiniti division.

2016 Honda HR-V.
This upcoming 2016 HR-V may help Honda keep its distance from Nissan.

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Photos courtesy of Honda North America and Nissan North America.

Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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