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Honda locks in Accord hybrid sedan for Australia

Hybrid countdown: The 2013 Honda Accord Coupe concept at the 2012 Detroit motor show signalled Honda's intention to add a hybrid powertrain to its mid-sizer.

Thai-built Honda Accord to offer hybrid powertrain in next generation from 2014

2 Apr 2012

HONDA Australia’s next-generation Thai-built Accord will gain a hybrid powertrain, expanding the importer’s portfolio of petrol-electric models to at least five by 2014.

Honda Australia also confirmed it is considering importing the sub-Jazz Brio light hatchback, maybe even in the current generation that was launched last year across Asia, including India, to compete with the likes of the Nissan Micra and Suzuki Alto.

A people-mover version of the Brio to be built in a new plant in Indonesia is also under consideration.

The new-model moves were disclosed by Honda Australia managing director Satoshi Matsuzawa in Bangkok at the reopening of the refurbished Thai production plant that was devastated by last year’s floods.

The new American-style Accord sedan will go into production in Thailand in 2013, with the petrol-engined models arriving in Australia the same year.

Mr Matsuzawa said the hybrid version – a first in the Accord range – will follow later.

It is unclear if the Thai-built Accord will use a plug-in format or the simpler Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid form – as used in current Honda hybrids such as the Insight, Civic Hybrid and CR-Z – that relies on regenerative braking to charge the battery to power an electric motor sandwiched between the engine and the transmission.

15 center imageLeft: Honda Brio. Below: Honda Accord.

In January, Honda showed a plug-in hybrid powertrain with its 2013 Accord Coupe concept at the Detroit motor show. In that system, an Atkinson-cycle petrol 2.0-litre i-VTEC four-cylinder engine combines with a 120kW electric motor.

That plug-in hybrid powertrain can be driven in three modes – all-electric, a mix of electric and petrol, and direct-drive petrol – and is said to be good for up to 24km of city driving.

Charging the 6kWh lithium-ion battery is said to take 1.5 hours using a 240-volt charger.

In the US, the new Accord will mark the debut of Honda’s new Earth Dreams range of engines, including a 2.4-litre direct-injected four-cylinder producing 135kW of power and 240m of torque – 10 per cent more torque and with five per cent greater fuel efficiency than the current engine.

A new 3.5-litre i-VTEC V6 with GM-style variable cylinder management will also be offered, but power and torque figures remain under wraps.

The engine line-up for Australia’s new Accord is yet to be confirmed, apart from the hybrid component.

Asian Honda president Hiroshi Kobayashi told GoAuto that the Accord hybrid powertrains would be made in Japan and shipped to Thailand to be fitted to the ninth-generation Accord sedan.

He said Honda was continuing to expand its hybrid offerings from the Thai production base to meet demand in the region, with the hybrid Jazz coming on stream this year.

The Jazz hybrid was recently confirmed for Australia, where it is set to be introduced late this year, joining the Insight, Civic Hybrid and CR-Z in the hybrid range.

Mr Kobayashi said Honda would also offer more diesel powertrains in vehicles such as the CR-V, which will get the oil-burning alternative in the new fourth-generation compact SUV after it arrives on the Australian market late this year.

He said the increase in diesel offerings within Asian Honda models was largely as a consequence of the company’s expanding role in India, where diesel is popular.

He described India as a battleground where the European and Asian car industries met, with each looking to expand their sales in potentially one of the world’s biggest markets.

Mr Kobayashi said the Indian market and other developing Asian countries were demanding higher-standard motor vehicles, meaning cars for the region had to be designed to western standards.

He said this would mean that cars made in the region were more likely to be exported to markets that would not accept previous cars designed for the price-sensitive developing markets.

The five-door Honda Brio hatchback, which has been made in both Thailand and India since last year, is one car that might yet make it into western markets such as Australia.

Honda Australia’s Mr Matsuzawa said his company was studying the possibility of importing the Brio to sit below the Jazz in the local Honda range, but nothing firm had been decided.

Asked if the current-generation Brio or next model would be the most likely candidate to debut the nameplate in Australia, Mr Matsuzawa said: “Maybe the current one.”

One of the problems of the Brio until now has been the lack of an automatic transmission, but that has been solved with the addition in Thailand of a CVT-equipped model as an alternative to the five-speed manual.

The five-seat Brio is powered by a 1.2-litre i-VTEC four-cylinder petrol engine developing 66kW of power and 110Nm of torque.

Among the safety features in the Thai versions are ABS and electronic brake-force distribution, although it lacks electronic stability control, which would be necessary for Australian sale.

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