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Baby Honda too basic for Oz

Not now: Honda's New Small Concept is off the agenda for Australia, at least for now.

NCAP crash safety questions mean sub-Jazz Honda hatch unlikely for Australia

17 Aug 2010


HONDA has indicated that its upcoming baby car may not be sold in Australia because it has not been designed specifically to meet NCAP independent crash test standards.

However, the company is quick to stress that its upcoming ‘New Small Concept’ (NSC) vehicle has passed every one of the same internal safety regimes that Honda applies to all its vehicles.

Asian Honda Motor Company automobile business division general manager Shigeru Yamazaki said: “Our car meets Honda’s internal standards ... but there is no official regulation in India for safety criteria, so we are not sure whether it will meet NCAP."But – on the grounds of the NSC still in secret development – he declined to reveal if it would be fitted with electronic stability control as a result of the Honda’s low-price positioning in markets such India and Thailand.

As all new cars sold in the state of Victoria from January next year must have ESC fitted, its potential non-availability would make it a non-starter for Australia.

“I cannot say any more,” Mr Yamazaki said.

15 center imageConceived and developed in Japan, and unveiled as a stylised concept at the 2010 New Delhi motor show in January, the productionised version of the NSC will roughly slot into the sub-B light category as a low-cost city runabout designed to take on the likes of the Suzuki Alto and Nissan March/Micra when it debuts sometime during 2011.

Built on an all-new structure that Honda says boasts “… a wide platform with a stable centre of gravity … to create a highly efficient compact size with seating for five people”, the production iteration of the NSC concept will have five doors and a cab-forward body.

It will continue to possess all of the hallmarks of traditional Honda engineering capabilities, according to one company insider.

News of a Thai as well as Indian production base has created speculation as to the chance of the NSC coming to Australia, since a quintet of existing Hondas currently – Jazz, City, Civic, Accord and CR-V – also hail from a massive industrial facility some 200km north of Bangkok.

However, speaking to GoAuto before a tour of the Ayutthaya plant, Honda Australia managing director and CEO Satoshi Matsuzawa said he believed that demand was insufficient below the Jazz/Toyota Yaris/Hyundai i20 class to warrant importing NSC.

“We have no plans for Australia at this time,” he said. “We haven’t decided anything.

“Whether it comes to Australia or not pretty much depends on the market. I don’t think our customers demand such a small car.

“Demand for the car is driven in Thailand by government incentives. In India it is driven by the market – but there is no (government-backed) eco incentive or market demand for it in Australia.” Perhaps the clearest indication of what the NSC will be like is to look at the all-new Thai-market K13 March – a de-specified low-cost version of the K13 Micra that Nissan will release in Australia in the fourth quarter of this year.

Like that car, according to Mr Yamazaki, the NSC was partly born out of the Thai government’s call for Asian manufacturers to develop a low-price ‘eco’ car that would be built in Thailand – but also serve to tap into India’s booming middle class.

“The (NSC) will meet the (Thai government’s) ‘eco’ car requirements … to accelerate mobilisation in this country,” he said.

“But in India we are developing the small car to meet India’s middle-income buyers … to provide (a cheaper) car for the middle income buyers.

“Already Maruti/Suzuki and Tata have models in this segment. And now, not only Honda, but also Toyota, Nissan, Volkswagen and many other carmakers are trying to get into this segment too.

“But it is a new segment for Thailand.”

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