Second in a series
Long a popular consumer choice at retail stores, Honda Power Equipment is stepping up its efforts to win over commercial customers, particularly landscape contractors.
The renewed push for commercial business involves more than touting the quality and reliability of Honda engines, although that’s a story the world’s largest engine maker never tires of telling.
The message going out to commercial buyers has more to do with product mix. Because while the company’s consumer products are familiar to anyone who watches television or walks the aisle of a big-box DIY store, Honda Power Equipment also offers a line of commercial quality string trimmers and lawn mowers, among other products landscape contractors use regularly.
However, unlike manufacturers that focus exclusively on commercial sales, Honda’s pitch to landscapers is likely to involve a limited number of products. Take lawn mowers, for example; you won’t find 10 or 12 zero-turn-radius riding mowers in a Honda Power Equipment catalog. In fact, you’ll find only a handful of models designed for commercial use — and all are walk-behinds.
But in recent interviews about its outreach to landscapers, Honda executives noted that push mowers are still important tools in the lawn-care business and stated matter-of-factly that a contractor simply isn’t going to find a better walk-behind mower than theirs.
Honda’s GS Series lawn mowers target “premium residential” and light-duty commercial markets. The company’s OHV GX Series is designed specifically for commercial users.
Whether it’s mowers, trimmers, tillers or other products used in the green industry, the key to Honda’s success is “meaningful” technology, said Jeff Conrad, the company’s senior vice president and general manager.
“Customer interviews led to the designs” and guide the periodic upgrades of Honda Power Equipment products, he said, “so the quality holds across all sizes.” That’s not true of Honda’s competitors, Conrad said.
Needless to say, Honda’s string trimmers, like its mowers, include models targeting retail as well as commercial customers. Among landscape contractors, the overall reliability of the tool may actually take a backseat to another selling point: its volume. Honda Power Equipment touts all of its trimmers as “exceptionally quiet” – a feature that’s become important as more and more cities consider, or pass, noise ordinances affecting lawn-care businesses.
In targeting commercial users, Honda says its HHT35SLTA trimmer, powered by the Honda GX35 “mini”-4-stroke engine, has quick acceleration and the torque necessary for demanding applications. The Honda HHT35SUKA, meanwhile, also powered by the Honda GX35 engine, is specifically designed for professional jobs, including heavy-duty brush clearing.
For landscapers, Honda also points to the light weight and maneuverability of its trimmers, as well as the torsional strength of the tool’s flexible shaft, which is the strongest in the industry and carries a lifetime guaranty, the company says.
Whether Honda Power Equipment actually grows its share of the U.S. landscaping market may be hard to determine, but you can bet the company won’t be taking the green industry for granted. Too many of the tools landscapers use are part of Honda’s product inventory for that to ever happen.
Just because the company does well with retail consumers, don’t look for Honda to pursue landscaping customers at anything short of a sprint.