Originally created 05/19/00

Rate increase may affect auto sales



AIKEN - The Federal Reserve's interest rate increase will cause a decrease in car sales, especially on lower-end vehicles, a top Honda sales executive said Thursday.

Richard E. Colliver, executive vice president of automobile sales for American Honda Motor Co. Inc., visited Honda Cars of Aiken to meet the staff and view the recently opened facility.

He said he expects sales to decline on lower-end vehicles, where financing and monthly payments are a priority.

Carmakers have been enjoying brisk sales as consumers continue to spend, especially on trucks.

"It can only go so far. We've increased sales by bringing different vehicles into the market," Mr. Colliver said.

He said light-duty trucks manufactured by Honda have become a substantial amount of the company's sales.

"In 1994, trucks were at zero percent and now they make up 25 to 27 percent of our sales," he said.

Honda's best seller remains the Accord, with 400,000 sales nationwide last year; the smaller Civic is a close second with 350,000 sold. But Mr. Colliver said there is a demand for other vehicles, such as the S2000 roadster and the Odyssey minivan.

Honda has two major goals, he said. The company is researching ways to make its smaller cars safer and creating more hybrid cars, such as the Insight, which run on electric and gasoline power.

While other automobile manufacturers are focusing on different styling, Mr. Colliver said, Honda is concerned with safety.

"We're taking the technology on our automobiles and transferring it to our trucks. We want to share the safety features in order to protect the consumer," he said.

The new line of trucks, along with the current sport utility vehicles, incorporates the environmentally friendly standards that Honda supports.

Honda realizes the condition of the environment is a critical issue worldwide, Mr. Colliver said.

"Our engines meet and far exceed EPA regulations," he said.

Reach Jennifer Bishop at (706) 823-3217.