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NSX, Civic Type R to give Honda a rev

Classified R: The Civic Type R is slated to arrive in Australia next year and will face some tough competition in the already crowded hot hatch segment.

Performance models to enhance Honda Australia’s brand image, and sales

Honda logo1 Aug 2014

By TIM NICHOLSON

HONDA Australia is banking on the highly anticipated Civic Type R hot hatch and its NSX hybrid supercar to inject some much-needed excitement into the brand when they arrive next year and in 2016 respectively.

The car-maker is expecting the two performance cars to act as halo models for the rest of the Honda range, which should then have a positive impact on the sales of core models that have slowed in recent years.

Models including the CR-V, Civic and Accord are down 32.5, 45.1 and 43.4 per cent respectively for the first half of 2014 compared with the same six-month period last year, while overall sales have taken a 34 percent hit.

While the Porsche and Ferrari-baiting NSX was expected to arrive in Australia sometime next year, timing for the mid-engined, twin electric motor coupe – of which a pre-production prototype caught fire on Germany’s Nurburgring late last week – is now likely to race into local dealerships in 2016.

Honda Australia director Stephen Collins told GoAuto at the Jazz launch this week that the supercar, which will be built in the US, was still a lock for Australia, but he could not confirm exactly when.

“It won't be next year, but when beyond that? The car is still well and truly in development. It definitely won’t be next year but beyond that we will be trying to get it as early as possible,” he said.

Mr Collins also refused to speculate on pricing, admitting that he had “no idea” how much the NSX would cost when it eventually landed here.

One thing Mr Collins is confident of is the impact the NSX will have on Honda’s image in Australia.

“It’s a super important car. It's just a car that is drenched in Honda DNA. I think that NSX, the return to Formula One, and (Civic) Type-R returning, I think that is a clear signal, that globally, and our job locally is to make the most of that.

“I personally love driving sportscars and there is still a good market for sportscars. It is good for the brand, it's just good for when you drive down the street and see a great-looking sportscar, you turn your head and say ‘wow look at that’. I just think that is a good thing.”

While the Honda brand has been synonymous with sportscars in the past, thanks to iconic models it offered throughout the 1980s and ’90s such as the Integra, Prelude, CR-X, S2000 and the original NSX, the only sporty offering it counts among its charges now is the slow-selling CR-Z hybrid two-door.

In the first six months of this year, the CR-Z has sold just 28 units, and after starting off with solid sales when it arrived here in late 2011 the numbers have trickled to single digits a month.

Another performance model set to shake up the local line-up is the blistering 206kW/400Nm-plus turbocharged Civic Type R that is scheduled to arrive next year to take on an impressive array of rivals including the 195kW/360Nm Renault Megane RS 265, 184kW/360Nm Ford Focus ST, 206kW/380Nm Volkswagen Golf R and Holden’s forthcoming Opel-sourced 206kW/400Nm Astra VXR.

Mr Collins said he was aware of the popularity of hot hatches in Australia and believed the company could gain leverage off the Type R’s name.

“I don't know where we are going to price it but I think it can be a reasonable volume car,” he said. “I am not sure how many old Type Rs we sold but it was certainly in the thousands, I would think. It can be reasonable volume.

“And that's the key to get them out there, get them on the road. People noticing them and turning their heads, so I think that's what we will try and do with Type R.”

The Civic Type R will launchin Europe next year, and while local timing is yet to be locked in, Mr Collins said he hoped it would be “hopefully not too far beyond that”.

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