Honda is increasing production capacity for its Honda CR-V as it launches redesigned version of its popular compact SUV that has a more aggressive design, is more aerodynamic and has more power.
The Japanese automaker revealed an all-new 2017 Honda CR-V in Detroit on Wednesday that is slightly wider and longer than the outgoing model that it hopes will help it retain leadership in the booming compact SUV
"This new CR-V raises the bar in every imaginable way, delivering more performance, space and greater content," Jeff Conrad, senior vice president and general manager of the Honda ivision, said at a media event held at Detroit's Eastern Market.
The CR-V, already Honda's second-best selling vehicle, competes against other popular vehicles such as Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue, Ford Escape, Jeep Cherokee, Subaru Forester and Chevrolet Equinox.
To stay ahead, Honda is adding production capacity at its Greensburg, Ind., plant and has stopped making the CR-V in at its plant in Guadalajara, Mexico.
This year, Honda is on track to sell more than 365,000 CR-V's in the U.S. Next year, the CR-V could become Honda's top-selling car or truck, outpacing Accord.
"We didn’t build this (new model) and make this investment for sales to go down. We are looking to continue to build more vehicles," Conrad said. "We are not publicly establishing a target. Suffice it to say that we are going to set a new record this year, calendar year for CR-V, and we intend to beat that next year."
The new CR-V has crisper lines on the front end, a longer, more muscular hood and wide, muscular fenders. According to Honda, an all-new body and chassis gives the new CR-V more agile and confident handling, greater refinement, additional ground clearance.
The EX and higher trim levels of the CR-V will be equipped with a turbocharged 1.5-liter direct-injected four-cylinder engine that generates 190 horsepower. The engine will be more powerful than the outgoing version by five horsepower while also getting the best fuel economy among compact SUVs. The fancier LX version of the CR-V will be powered by a 2.4-liter engine with 184 horsepower..
Honda also added an optional hands-free tailgate that allows the owner to open and close the tailgate with a foot activated sensor under the rear of the vehicle.
Conrad also announced that the audio system for the 2017 CR-V includes a new Display Audio system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, and an old-school volume knob, not just touch controls.
"Our customers and many of you told us loud and clear that you wanted a volume knob so the knob is back!" Conrad said.
The automaker declined to reveal the price and said that will be announced closer to when it goes on sale in December.
Honda has sold nearly 4 million CR-Vs since its U.S. launch in 1997, making CR-V the best-selling sport-utility vehicle in America over the past two decades. Honda introduced the fourth-generation CR-V in 2011 and launched an updated version in 2014.
To meet rising demand, the Japanese automaker will make the 2017 CR-V at three plants in North America.
Honda was already making the CR-V in East Liberty, Ohio and Alliston, Ont. Now, Honda is investing $52 million to upgrade its plant in Greensburg, Ind. and will hire about 100 new employees. Honda will begin making the CR-V in Greensburg early next year.
Honda has produced the Civic in Greensburg since the plant opened in 2008 and will continue making the sedan there.
Honda previously produced a small number of CR-V's at it's plant in Guadalajara, Mexico. Conrad said the investment in Greensburg will give Honda much more production capacity than the automaker had in Mexico.
While demand for compact SUVs has been increasing in recent years other automakers also are boosting production capacity for their compact SUVs and introducing new models. Toyota, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, for example, are all either expanding production capacity or launching new models.
Over the first nine months of the year Honda's CR-V outsold its main rival, the Toyota RAV4, but only by 3,000 units and Toyota is planning to boost production in 2019.
Chevrolet unveiled a redesigned 2018 Equinox in September that will go on sale next year and FCA plans to reveal an all-new Jeep Compass in November that will replace the current Compass and Jeep Patriot.
Conrad said he isn't worried about the market becoming over saturated.
"We believe that because we build a better mousetrap, we win," Conrad said.