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Honda Australia outlines EV product strategy

Green future: Honda will re-introduce hybrid vehicles to its passenger car line-up, beginning with the new-generation Accord sedan later this year.

Each new Honda model generation to feature at least one electrified powertrain option

14 Mar 2019

AFTER moving away from electrified powertrain vehicles in recent years, Honda Australia has announced it will roll out at least one hybrid or full-EV variant on each new full model change going forward.
Honda was one of the pioneering brands for hybrid powertrains in Australia, releasing a slew of electrified models over the previous decade including the Jazz, Civic and Accord hybrid, and the Insight hybrid hatch and CR-Z sportscar.
However, each of these models were gradually discontinued due to poor sales in the Australian market, which has so far shown a lukewarm response to alternative-powertrain models.
Currently, the only hybrid model in Honda Australia’s line-up is the NSX supercar, which at $420,000 plus on-roads, is hardly accessible to the majority of the population.
With its decision to reintroduce a hybrid offering on each of its new model lines going forward, Honda Australia has set a target of 25 per cent of its overall sales to be electrified by 2025.
The target comes after Honda of Europe recently announced that it plans for 100 per cent of its sales to be electrified over the same time period.
Over the last 12 months, just 1.5 per cent of new-vehicle sales in Australia were made up of hybrid vehicles, however Honda Australia director Stephen Collins said acceptance for the vehicles is growing, and will continue to do so.
“First thing is the world is changing,” he said. “So clearly there’s regulatory change in some markets, and eventually our view is that will happen here. 
“From a customer perspective there is greater acceptance, and we are seeing some growth in the market. It’s still very small but we are seeing signs of growth, and we think that is going to continue. 
“I think it’s two sides – one is customer acceptance and the other is a regulatory regime that is forcing manufacturers down this path, and I think we need to get on board with it.”
The first model for Honda to re-launch with a hybrid variant will be the Accord medium sedan later in the year, which in all-new guise will be repositioned as a more premium product with the choice of petrol or hybrid powertrains.
Next up will likely be the Jazz light hatch, which is due in next-generation guise around 2020.
Mr Collins anticipated the economies of scale around mass production of hybrids and EVs would help reduce the cost of the vehicles, which are currently regarded by many as being too expensive compared to their internal-combustion counterparts.
“I can’t tell you how much it’s going to reduce the cost by, but clearly it’s going to help,” he said. 
“And when you’ve got other markets around the world that are mandating CO2 targets, and to meet that you have bring these cars to market, and you’ve got emerging markets like India and others, clearly that’s going to bring the cost down.”
Mr Collins said that the biggest hurdle to a greater take-up of hybrids and EVs in Australia is a lack of concrete policy and emissions targets for the vehicles, which makes product planning – especially when liaising with head office in Japan – difficult.
“Uncertainty is the worst thing for the car companies,” he said. 
“When we don’t know what the targets are, what the timing is, it’s very difficult for us to do the planning. 
“So, all we call for, whether its Labor or Liberal, is certainty on what’s going to happen, what are the targets, and what do we need to do and when. 
“And at the moment there is too much uncertainty, which is bad for everyone’s business.”
When asked if Honda Australia would look to bring the production version of the e Prototype Down Under, Mr Collins said the company was enthusiastic about the car but would have to make sure the business case stacks up before bringing it here.
The e Prototype, revealed at this year’s Geneva motor show, is slated for right-hand-drive production given it will be produced in Japan, and Mr Collins assured that securing volume out of the factory would not be a problem if the company can make it a viable proposition.
Globally, Honda plans for two thirds of its sales volume to come from electrified powertrains by 2030.

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