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Civic five-door for Oz

Here next year: Five-door Civic is built in the UK.

Honda Australia to bring mainstream Civic hatch here in 2009

12 May 2008

HONDA Australia will import the British-built Civic Hatch as a mainstream model when the mid-life facelift is introduced in the middle of 2009.

Although Honda Australia imports the three-door Civic Type R hatch from the UK, it is reliant on the Thai-built sedan in the growing Australian small car segment – and sedans account for only 40 per cent of small car sales here.

Company director Lindsay Smalley told GoAuto that Honda Australia was committed to the program, although the official party line remains that it is assessing feedback, looking at exchange rates and negotiating supply from the UK.

Mr Smalley said that the five-door Civic will have to be a high-specification model because of the cost of getting it from the UK and will be priced around $35,000.

He said that Honda has been “working on bringing it to Australia” since the distinctive model was introduced in 2005 and began the program by taking the low-volume Type R from June last year.

“If you look at the small car segment, we currently only compete with Civic sedan and the sedan component of that segment is about 40 per cent, so we see a hatch or five-door variant as being a real opportunity for us,” Mr Smalley said.

“There are issues getting cars from the UK, particularly exchange rate and no free trade agreement, so it comes in with 10 per cent duty on top of a very strong English pound, increased logistics and shipping costs.”Mr Smalley said he was concerned that an up-spec Civic five-door would be close in both size and price to the current Accord Euro, but the increased size of the new-generation model (and an expected price hike) creates an opening for the hatch.

“New-generation Euro is a bigger car and we see the possibility now of an entry point to slot a Civic five-door into that vacant space,” he said.

“We’re interested in press feedback on the car and the plant, and we’ve had dealers come through and have a look as well, and I think our next step is to bring a five-door out to Australia for some very serious market research.”Honda UK managing director Ken Keir is excited about the prospect of further exports to Australia, telling Australian journalists that the Type R deal was a major step forward for the Swindon plant and comparable with sending cars to Japan.

“When Australia came up for the Type R, all I can say to you is that the buzz was fantastic,” said Mr Keir, who is also a senior vice-president of Honda Europe.

“It’s not the volume, it’s the statement that’s important. Australia is important in the UK. Australia is emotionally meaningful for UK people.”

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