In a further carving up of the CUV sector in the U.S., Honda next year will debut a short-wheelbase version of its Pilot large CUV, WardsAuto forecast partner AutoForecastSolutions learns.
The SWB Pilot, to have two rows of seating, is to begin production in September 2018 at Honda’s Lincoln, AL, plant.
The move is not without precedent in the industry, as competitor Hyundai already offers 2- and 3-row versions of its midsize CUV the Santa Fe.
The strategy allows buyers not needing a third row to get into the CUV at a lower price point.
For instance, the 2-row ’17 Santa Fe Sport starts roughly $5,000 lower than the 3-row Santa Fe, at $25,350 vs. $30,800.
The ’17 Pilot begins at $30,595 for a front-wheel-drive LX grade.
It’s unclear how much size and price difference there would be between a SWB Pilot and Honda’s next-smallest CUV, the midsize 2-row CR-V. The CR-V starts at $24,045 for ’17.
The CR-V is 180.6 ins. (4,587 mm) long with a 104.7-in. (2,659-mm) wheelbase, while the current 3-row Pilot is 194.5 ins. (4,940 mm) long with a 111.0-in. (2,819-mm) wheelbase.
Automakers are looking to grow their presence in the light-truck sector as sales of the vehicle type, specifically the CUV body style, boom and cars, traditionally the best-selling body style in the U.S., falter.
CUV sales in 2016 in the U.S. hit their highest-ever volume at 5.624 million, WardsAuto data shows, a 7.7% increase from 2015. CUV share also grew to a best-ever 32.2% in 2016, up from 30.0% in 2015.
Pilot sales last year fell 11.3% to 120,772 units, which Honda has blamed on a tight supply situation at the Lincoln plant, also home to the in-demand Acura MDX.
This year MDX moves from Lincoln to Honda’s East Liberty, OH, plant to ease build constraints.
AutoForecastSolutions sees the SWB Pilot also moving from Lincoln to East Liberty, but not until June 2021.
A Honda spokeswoman says the automaker doesn’t comment on future product.