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Honda Australia lays out plans to late 2015
Four new models in 2014 for Honda Australia, more sex appeal part of the plan
19 Nov 2013
By MIKE COSTELLO in JAPAN
HONDA Australia will launch a trio of important new models in the first half of 2014 as the lynchpin of what it hopes will be a year of “double digit” sales growth.
The flurry of new models will kick off with the arrival of the first CR-V diesel in Australia in January, before a new-generation, sub-$40,000 Odyssey (with an eight-seat option) touches down in February with the expectation of retaining the current model’s position as the nation’s top-selling people-mover among private buyers.
This activity will culminate in the arrival of the vital all-new Jazz light hatch in showrooms by July, almost 12 months after its Japanese launch.
Beyond this, Honda’s Australian arm will seek incremental growth through the addition of at least one entirely new model line, and will bolster its image with up to two new green vehicles and a pair of vitally important sportscars in 2015 and 2016 respectively: the reborn VTEC turbocharged Civic Type R hot hatch and NSX hybrid supercar.
The new model line in question is the long-awaited all-new Jazz-based urban SUV, set for debut at the Tokyo motor show this week and due in Australia by the end of 2014, or 12 months after its Japanese market launch.
The environmentally focused cars are the new Jazz hybrid, set for release early in 2015, and potentially a petrol-electric version of the Accord sedan to rival the locally made Toyota Camry hybrid at the same time.
These new arrivals, plus more marketing activity and a facelift for its self-confessed underperforming Civic sedan, sit at the core of a plan to take annual sales from about 40,000 units this year – up 20 per cent on 2012 – to beyond 45,000 next year, with a medium-term goal to return to the heady days of 60,000 inside a few years.
The new model activity coincides with the reveal of an exciting trio of new small-capacity turbo-petrol engines this week in Japan that will feature in all small and medium Hondas within a few years, with the company calling this research and development work a return to its innovative roots (see separate story linked below).
Speaking with GoAuto this week, Honda Australia director Stephen Collins spoke at length of the importance of new models to the brand, most notably the halo effect of its new NSX hybrid supercar in 2016 and the Type R hot hatch, while admitting models such as the Thai-made Civic sedan needed a boost.
"We’ve struggled to keep it competitive to be honest,” said Mr Collins, referring to the small-segment Civic sedan. “More of our focus has been on the hatch ... it’s fair enough to say we’re not content “Ultimately, the segment is big enough for us to be selling 1000 hatches and sedans per month (apiece, up from a few hundred sedans and 1000 hatches at the moment). Whether that’s feasible I’m not sure.
“However, I think the reality is in the next 12 months it’s less than that. To get it to that sort if level like a lot of competitors you’ve got to be super-aggressive. But (we have) no plan to cut prices.”
Speaking on the Accord hybrid, Mr Collins said: “I think there's opportunity for it, we’re trying to work out the case.”
The new Odyssey, meantime, will touch down in February with markedly less car-like styling but a more spacious cabin with the option of eight seats.
“The current one is number one in the private people-mover market, and we want the new one to stay that way, we want a few hundred (sales) a month,” said Mr Collins.
However, the big ticket item, and the certain source of the incremental growth Honda needs to hit its targets, is the new micro-sized SUV rival for the likes of the Ford EcoSport and Holden Trax, due in about a year from now.
“Whatever we can do to get it as quick as possible, we will,” said Mr Collins.
“I think it’s critical, particularly when you talk incremental growth, new cars in a new segment are crucial.
“That segment will keep growing at the same rate for a few years yet. We’re confident we’ll have a good car, well position it aggressively,” he said, adding that both petrol and diesel powertrains would be made available.
“Most of the volume will be petrol but the reality is we were late to the diesel party. But it’s becoming an important part in our line-up.”
Beyond this, the model ripest for replacement in Honda’s range is the ageing Accord Euro mid-sized sedan. Australia is the only market to offer both the Euro and the regular Accord concurrently, an arrangement Mr Collins would like to see continued if such an option is presented to it by head office in Japan.
“There’s no (global) decision on it, no new development yet,” he said. “The future is uncertain, the the current Euro will remain. Our hope is we don’t kill it.”
Beyond this, the model Mr Collins is most keen to touch down is a large SUV to rival the Toyota Kluger and Nissan Pathfinder, with the most likely candidate being the US-market Acura MDX. However, with that car presently made in left-hand-drive only, such a launch appears unlikely.
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