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Honda keeps the faith with hybrids

Civic duty: Honda has sold just 57 Civic Hybrids in Australia since the start of 2013, but the company says it is committed to the model.

Jazz, Civic Hybrid sales slow, but Honda still looking at petrol-electric Accord

1 Aug 2014

HONDA will continue to offer hybrid-powered models in Australia despite low volumes, with the company’s local director hinting that a decision on bringing in a petrol-electric version of the mid-size Accord is imminent.

A local berth for the Accord Hybrid was mooted back in April 2012 when then Honda Australia managing director Satoshi Matsuzawa confirmed it was on the cards for Australia, but the company had since remained non-committal when discussing its chances here.

Speaking with GoAuto at the launch of the Jazz on the Gold Coast this week, Honda Australia director Stephen Collins said the company was keen to add the petrol-electric variant to its local line-up, but only if it could do it for the right price.

“Accord Hybrid is definitely on our shopping list,” he said. “It has got to make sense and it’s got to make economic sense for us.

“But it's certainly on our list and with the new-gen hybrid engines with the one-motor, two-motor and three-motor system, I think there could be a place for it, but again you have got to get the equation right, you have got to price it right. And we have got to do reasonable numbers so we are working on that, but I think there could be an opportunity for it.”

Mr Collins stopped short of confirming that the Toyota Camry Hybrid rival was a definite starter in Australia, and did not discuss possible timing.

He did, however, confirm the company’s commitment to its smaller hybrid range, which includes the slow-selling Jazz and Civic sedan.

While the third-generation Jazz arrived in local showrooms last week, the hybrid version is not expected until sometime next year, meaning the environmentally friendly city runabout will push on in second-gen guise alongside its newer, third-generation petrol-powered sibling until a replacement arrives.

“The new Jazz Hybrid is definitely part of our plan,” Mr Collins said. “The timing at this stage is not yet confirmed.

“We chose to go with the petrol engine first because it is the bread and butter. Hybrid is still in the plan, we just need to confirm the timing,” he said.

In the 15 months since the Jazz Hybrid went on sale priced from $22,990 plus on-roads, Honda has sold 315 examples – less than five per cent of the 6564 petrol-powered Jazzes it sold in the same period.

Mr Collins conceded that while the Jazz Hybrid was not a volume model for the brand in Australia, it provided a showcase of the company’s hybrid technology.

“Globally and locally we are still committed to hybrid. You just see in sales numbers it’s just not big volume. Having said that, it is definitely part of our strategy and a showcase of Honda's technologies,” he said.

“I think it’s still important, but the petrol engine is going to be the lion’s share of whatever we do in Jazz for the foreseeable future.”

The Jazz Hybrid appears to have had more sales success that the Civic Hybrid sedan, which has sold just 57 units in 2013 and 2014, which is 0.3 per cent of the Civic’s overall haul of 18,927 in that period.

Mr Collins reaffirmed his commitment to the slow-selling variant in Australia, despite the fact that it did not get the upgrade that the rest of the line-up received earlier this month.

“With Civic Hybrid we are still selling the existing model. We had a 2014 model year upgrade, which doesn’t apply to Hybrid, it applies to the petrol models.

From an upgrade perspective that's the difference.”

Honda confirmed in February this year that it had stopped producing the Insight hybrid model after lower than expected global take-up, with Honda Australia subsequently selling whatever stock it had on the ground.

The Japanese car-maker’s other hybrid-powered model – the CR-Z sportscar – is also proving to be a hard sell in Australia, with just 28 examples of the award-winning coupe sold so far this year compared with 42 in the same period last year.

It is being outsold in the sportscars under $80,000 segment by a number of niche models including the Renault Megane Convertible, Peugeot RCZ and Mini Cabrio.

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