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Honda Australia prepares 2018 SUV onslaught

Seductive seven: Honda Australia has been so impressed with sales of the first seven-seat CR-V that it will add a second, entry-level variant to the range later this year.

Facelifted HR-V, seven-seat CR-V imminent as Honda Australia puts pick-up on hold

Honda logo16 May 2018

By JUSTIN HILLIARD

HONDA Australia has confirmed that it will introduce a facelifted HR-V small SUV and double the seven-seat CR-V mid-size SUV range later this year, while plans for smaller and larger SUVs and a mid-size pick-up are yet to progress.
 
Speaking to journalists in Melbourne this week, Honda Australia general manager of customer and communications Scott McGregor revealed that the HR-V’s incoming update is expected to extend its sales success.
 
“HR-V’s been an incredibly strong performer for us since it launched in early 2015, so a mid-life facelift is (coming) this year, in a couple of months from now,” he said.
 
“We won’t be talking too much about the specifics around equipment … but needless to say, the focuses are on improved safety, improved driveability and improved style.
 
“We’re really excited by it, because … that category’s growing and HR-V’s doing really well in terms of private share, and we think this upgrade will take it even further.”
 
Sales of the HR-V are up this year, with 4065 examples sold to the end of April, representing an 8.9 per cent increase over the 3732 deliveries made during the same period in 2017.
 
The sub-$40,000 small-SUV segment is up 29.5 per cent year to date, with the HR-V placing fourth behind the Mitsubishi ASX (5817 units, up 15.2 per cent), Mazda CX-3 (5672, down 1.4 per cent) and Subaru XV (4708, up 105.9 per cent).
 
Mr McGregor explained that Honda Sensing advanced driver-assist safety technologies, such as adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist, will not be part of the update as the HR-V is engineered with the older ADAS system, however the latter is set to be improved.    
 
Currently, Honda only offers ADAS, which also includes autonomous emergency braking, on the top-spec HR-V VTi-L.
 
Meanwhile, the seven-seat CR-V VTi-L ($38,990 before on-road costs) has also been a sales success since its launch in July last year, so much so that a second variant is on the horizon, according to Mr McGregor.
 
“It’s going really, really well,” he said. “It’s exceeding expectations in terms of what we predicted from a launch volume point of view, so we’ve adjusted our mix coming into 2018 to meet that demand.
 
“We are looking at launching an incremental variant, which we will have some more news on later this year.
 
“Needless to say, what we’re seeing from a CR-V point of view … (is) exposure to different sets of customers, like what we haven’t seen before with seven seaters.
 
“We sold more CR-Vs in the last financial year than we’ve ever sold, so that’s a testament to the quality of the product – again just exposing ourselves to new market segments.”
 
The CR-V has found 5468 homes in the first four months of 2018, equating to a whopping 171.2 per cent lift over the 2016 examples sold during the same period last year.
 
This effort places the CR-V fifth behind the Mazda CX-5 (8329 units, up 2.3 per cent), Toyota RAV4 (7017, up 10.1 per cent), Nissan X-Trail (6897, up 19.6 per cent) and Hyundai Tucson (6441, down 7.5 per cent) in the sub-$60,000 mid-size-SUV segment, which is up 14.3 per cent.
 
Mr McGregor reiterated previous statements from Honda Australia executives, saying that while the company was constantly looking at models like the Pilot large SUV and Ridgeline mid-size pick-up, the two US-focused models were still off the table for Australia.
 
“We have this discussion a lot in terms of the segments that we’re not playing in, and obviously large SUV is one of them. If there was a product available to us, I’m sure we’d be very interested in taking it.”
 
Honda Australia director Stephen Collins added that the Pilot and Ridgeline are produced and sold in the US market only, making them left-hand-drive propositions unavailable to Australia.
 
“If (the Pilot) was made in Thailand and if it was in right-hand drive, I’d be at the front of the queue,” he said.
 
Mr Collins confessed that Honda Australia does have major holes in its current model line-up but has been a top performer recently in regards to private sales.
 
“Of course the two big gaps, it’s obvious, are pick-ups and SUVs … (but) we measure ourselves on private share,” he said.
 
“If you look at the last 12 months, we’ve been ranked number five in private sales … so with the range we have, we’re quite happy with that, but there’s opportunity for more.
 
“We’re pretty comfortable, but we want to keep growing, and SUVs are where the action is. Everyone knows the continued growth of that segment at the expense of others.”
 
However, Mr Collins ruled out offering the WR-V small SUV that would sit below the HR-V, with the company instead looking towards a different model that is a better fit for the Australian market.
 
“We’re certainly interested in a smaller SUV,” he said. “The WR-V we evaluated, but it’s really not suitable for this market. It’s mainly for emerging markets.
 
“But having said that … we’re certainly lobbying for a smaller SUV that’s suitable to our market.”
 
When questioned if the S660 sportscar would be a chance for Australia, Mr Collins said: “No, it’s only for Japanese Domestic Market (JDM). We couldn’t get it meet ADR (Australian Design Rules).
 
“Do I reckon we could sell it? Bloody oath, I do. It’s just a nice little thing.”

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