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Honda Australia considers Accord future

Down but not out: Honda’s Accord has fallen out of favour in the mid-size segment and now trails a number of its rivals.

Sales not in Accord as Honda concedes it could pull nameplate

Honda logo9 Dec 2016

By DANIEL DeGASPERI

HONDA Australia director Stephen Collins has confessed that the option of dropping the long-running Accord nameplate locally has become a reality, as sales of the mid-size sedan continue to drop in the dwindling segment.

Speaking with GoAuto at a national media event in Melbourne this week, Mr Collins insisted that the company was currently “not talking about axing the Accord” but he flagged that Honda has left the door open to that possibility in the future.

“We have to look at the segment opportunity (and) the business case, Accord is a nameplate that is synonymous with Honda in Australia so I think that (dropping it) is the last thing we would want to do,” he said.

“But at the end of the day as with any business decision, you have to face reality sometimes. I’m not pre-empting it one way or another, but it’s clearly a big challenge for us.

“If we took the decision – and it is a big if – then we would have to discuss when the timing would be, but that would be like with any other model. At this stage we haven’t made any decision.

“What we know is that we have to closely look at that segment and is that segment going to recover, is it going to stabilise or is it going to keep falling? That’s what we’re pondering at the moment.”

According to November VFACTS figures, the sub-$60K mid-size passenger segment is down 0.6 per cent with 44,350 sales year-to-date. The Accord has fallen by 22.6 per cent to just 690 sales over the same period, with a 1.6 per cent share of the class.

“Accord is in a really tough segment … the biggest challenge I think is that segment,” Mr Collins continued.

“When you take (Toyota) Camry out, the volume for everyone in that segment is very small and that segment continues to go down, so I think that’s a big challenge for not just us and Accord, but all those types of cars.”

Although the Camry has a stronghold on the segment with 21,635 sales and a 48.8 per cent share year-to-date, the Accord has fallen well behind the Mazda6 (4003 sales/9.0 per cent share), Subaru Liberty (3291/7.4 per cent), Volkswagen Passat (2907/6.6 per cent) and Ford Mondeo (2839/6.4 per cent).

It is now among the worst performing vehicles in the segment, beaten by the Hyundai Sonata (1572 sales/3.5 per cent share) and i40 (927/2.1 per cent), Kia Optima (1278/2.9 per cent), and Holden Malibu and Nissan Altima (799/1.8 per cent each), and surpassing only the Holden Insignia (230/0.5 per cent) and Citroen DS5 (21/0.0 per cent).

Despite the results, Mr Collins remarked, “We won’t have any major changes to Accord for the next 12 months.”“We’ve still got a fair way to go with this current model, and we’ll make the decision (about its future) at a point in time,” he added.

Asked whether the current-generation Accord was a slow seller due to its conservative styling, and if a new model could become sportier like the recently dropped Accord Euro, which sold in greater numbers, Mr Collins replied: “If anyone said to me would you like a sportier version of just about any of our grades, I would put my hand up and say absolutely.”“I think Accord’s no different, but time will tell where that goes,” he said.

Reviving the Accord Euro was off the cards, however, according to Honda Australia customer and communications manager Scott McGregor.

While there has been no direct Honda replacement for the Accord Euro – which was simply sold in Europe as the Accord – the Japanese company’s luxury off-shoot brand Acura previously marketed the vehicle as the TSX in the United States and it was replaced by the US-only TLX in 2014.

The still-current TLX is similar to the outgoing Accord Euro in design and size, but was built only in left-hand drive – and the prospect of a right-hand drive business case or Japanese/Thailand production was slim.

Mr McGregor stated: “It’s possible to produce it in right-hand drive, but it’s the business case of: is there the volume to produce it? Where is it going to come from? Do we get it here for the right price?”“The challenge that a lot of Australian automotive companies have is that we’re in an Asia Pacific region, but our vehicles are most like what comes from Europe,” he confessed.

“So the challenge of getting something that’s sophisticated enough and prices cheap enough is just a general challenge to everybody. We would love to (consider an Acura) if that changes, but there’s no changes yet.”

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