Sales were hot, now they're not By KATHY JACKSON | AUTOMOTIVE NEWS LOS ANGELES - U.S. sales of the once-hot Honda Civic have cooled considerably this year. What's going on? Dealers say American Honda Motor Co. has eased off on Civic advertising and focused on pushing Accords. Honda sold 316,638 Civics in 2006 after an autumn 2005 redesign. That was 2.7 percent above 2005, making Civic the sales leader in the lower mid-range segment. But 2007 has not been so kind. Sales in the first two months of this year fell 22.4 percent, to 38,419. "Lack of attention is what's hurting Civic," says Jim Smail, of Smail Auto Group in Greensburg, Pa. Smail is the Honda dealer council chairman. "Unfortunately, Honda has not advertised Civic because it was in such great demand," Smail says. "We've told the company we think advertising is critical. We have a big job to do with the Civic this year." Other dealers say an aggressive push by the factory on the Accord also has hurt the Civic. The Accord will be redesigned for the 2008 model year, so the company wants to push out all the 2007 models. "Honda dealers are talking about Accord because that's what Honda is talking about," says Dave Conant, a Honda dealer in Cerritos, Calif. Conant says volume targets on the Accord are the most aggressive he has seen. "Dealers are using their incentives on Accord, so Accord is overlapping Civic," he says. "Accord is cannibalizing Civic." Honda's Web site offers a "value package" base Accord with manual transmission for $19,220, including shipping. The top-end Civic EX sedan with manual transmission stickers for $19,305 with shipping. John Mendel, American Honda's senior vice president for automobile operations, admits the company wants the Accord to go out with a bang. But he doesn't think Accord prices are hurting the Civic. Mendel says part of the problem is Honda hasn't had the proper mix of vehicles for customers. Dealers need more base models and more high-end models with navigation systems, he says. "We're rectifying that. We're not worried about Civic." Jeff Conrad, vice president of advertising, says Honda began a national and regional TV push for the Civic in late February. "Civic was hot so we let Civic carry itself ever since we introduced the product," Conrad said. "Now all of a sudden gasoline prices have dropped, and Civic is not new, so we've got to put more emphasis on it - to remind people that Civic is out there."