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Honda lays out Australian model plans

Challenging: There is no prospect of the hybrid version of the new-generation Jazz coming to Australia, and some doubt over whether the redesigned light hatch will make it here at all.

Honda ‘active’ on hybrids, EVs but next-gen Jazz uncertain and City to get the chop

20 Dec 2019

HONDA Australia director Stephen Collins has confirmed that the company plans to make a hybrid drivetrain available in every model line going forward, but this will only apply to new-generation vehicles.


At a roundtable meeting at this month’s launch of the new-generation Accord mid-size sedan, which marks the return of Honda’s hybrid technology to the mainstream Australian market, Mr Collins emphasised that the Japanese brand’s hybrid portfolio “is a space we’re going to be much more active in”.


But this electrified future will not include the hybrid version of the fifth-generation CR-V launched overseas recently, which shares its 2.0-litre ‘i-MMD’ Atkinson-cycle hybrid drivetrain with the new Accord.


Mr Collins confirmed that an electrified version of Honda’s medium SUV will have to wait until the next full model change because Australia’s main Honda production source in Ayutthaya, Thailand, does not build the new CR-V Hybrid.


As for importing this crucial variant from another (more expensive) production source, Mr Collins stated “we can’t make it work”.


Also unlikely to make it to Australia is the next-generation Jazz, which was unveiled at the recent Tokyo motor show.


With enough production supply of the existing Jazz to continue throughout 2020, a final decision is yet to be made, though given Mr Collins’ analysis of the dwindling light-car category – “it’s very, very challenging” – there is only a slim chance of seeing a new Jazz here.


Around 70 per cent of existing Jazz models sold in Australia are the base VTi auto, leaving little scope to justify more expensive (and profitable) variants.


Due to the weakness of the Aussie dollar, Mr Collins said it was not surprising that “a lot of manufacturers are moving away from base grades”.


As for the new range-topping Jazz Hybrid, this also will not be available from the Thai factory, which guarantees its no-go status.


Also set to continue into 2020, but with its head firmly on the chopping block, is the Jazz-based City sedan.


Mr Collins confirmed “the segment with City is absolutely dying” in Australia, leaving little justification for certifying the new-generation City already on sale in Asia.


As GoAuto has reported, there are also no plans for the brand’s first mass-market electric vehicle, the Honda E, to be sold in Australia in the short term.


There is, however, positive news for Honda Australia’s model line-up over the next six months.


A facelifted Civic hatch will be announced in January, sporting the upgrades already rolled out on the sedan earlier in 2019.


And there is a mid-life upgrade due for CR-V in the second quarter of 2020, focusing on safety equipment and technology improvements.


The current Jazz and HR-V will also receive a few changes.


Indeed, Mr Collins is feeling upbeat about Honda Australia’s sales hopes in the near future.


Despite the continued market downturn and a 15 per cent drop in Honda sales to the end of November, Mr Collins insisted “we’re having a really good year” and said he expects that to continue throughout 2020.


He said the company has forecast “just over 20,000 units” in the first half of next year – a dip from the 24,801 sales in the first half of 2019, and some way down from the 29,301 achieved in the first half of 2018.


But having overtaken Holden during 2019, while remaining clear of Subaru and holding steady behind Volkswagen and Nissan, Honda Australia looks set to finish the year in ninth place – one position up on 2018.

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