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Long wait for new Jazz to eat into Honda’s sales

Riding high: Honda’s Jazz-based Vezel SUV is due in Australia early next year, and will take on the likes of Ford’s EcoSport and the Holden Trax.

Mid-year arrival for new-gen Jazz hatchback to rob Honda of market share

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Honda logo17 Feb 2014

By BARRY PARK

HONDA says the long wait for a new generation of its Jazz city hatchback will hurt the brand this year, leaving it struggling to grow sales beyond last year’ s 39,258 units.

However, the Japanese car-maker believes it can claw back market share as a slew of new products, including a compact SUV and vehicles that harken to the brand’s sportscar roots, join the Honda showroom from 2014.

Honda Australia director Steve Collins told GoAuto that while sales grew last year by about 10 per cent, the wait until mid-year for the next-generation Jazz – the volume-selling model arrives in Australia almost a year after its international debut – would eat into the brand’s growth this year.

“Product in this industry is king, and I think we’re doing a lot to become more competitive and offer customers more choice such as diesel, so I was happy with our growth last year,” Mr Collins said.

“This year’s we’re planning to sell about 40,000, which is about the same (as 2013’s sales volume of 39,258).

“The main reason for this is that (the next-generation) Jazz won’t come until mid-year, and it’s a big volume car for us. So we’re pretty much in run-out at the moment for (outgoing) Jazz.” Mr Collins said the car-maker was pinning its sales hopes this year on the arrival of a new Jazz-based City sedan in May, as well as the arrival of its bread-and-butter model, the Mazda2-fighting Jazz hatchback, around June.

However, Mr Collins said Honda was also eagerly anticipating the arrival of the Vezel compact sports utility vehicle, due on sale in Australia in early 2015.

Based on the Jazz, Honda has shown what it said was a production-ready version of the SUV to take on the likes of the Holden Trax and Ford EcoSport in one of Australia’s fastest-growing new-car segments.

The high-riding hatchback is expected to include petrol and diesel-engined versions, reflecting the drivetrain choices of the mid-size CR-V soft-roader.

Mr Collins said the brand would also build excitement with the introduction of several sports-honed models.

“I guess long term, with the announcement of Civic Type-R coming back – we’ve also announced that we’ll be selling NSX, although there are still a lot of details to be finalised — our sporty DNA will only been enhanced,” he said.

The Civic Type-R, due in 2015 and featuring a turbocharged four-cylinder engine for the first time, is due to show itself in production guise at next month’s Geneva motor show.

The mid-mounted petrol-electric hybrid-engined NSX coupe, meanwhile, is also due to arrive in 2015, and likely to stack up against Nissan’s beer-budget supercar, the twin-turbo 3.8-litre V6-engined GT-R.

While the halo effect of the Civic Type-R and the NSX would help build customer appeal, Mr Collins said Honda would also have to work on its hybrid sales, which have failed to attract customers in significant numbers.

“I think we’re heading in the right direction, but there’s still plenty of work to do.” he said.

“CR-Z is pretty modest volume for us — I'd have to say that’s the case with all our hybrids at the moment,” he said.

Even so, it has been a slow start for the car-maker, posting a 35 percent fall in sales in January.

The decline in sales corresponds with the fall in volume of the Jazz during the first month of the year.

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