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Honda WR-V a no-go for Australia

Next: After studying the business case, Honda Australia has decided not to bring the WR-V small SUV here to open its SUV range.

Large SUV and pick-up still biggest priorities for Honda, sub-HR-V SUV ruled out

18 Mar 2019

AFTER analysing the possibility of introducing a baby SUV to sit underneath its popular HR-V small SUV, Honda Australia has decided not to bring the tiny high-rider Down Under, with more pressing gaps currently in the brand’s product portfolio.


In late 2017, Honda Australia managing director and CEO Hiroyuki Shimizu told GoAuto the company was investigating an expansion of its small SUV stocks with the WR-V, which is 294mm shorter, 32mm narrower and sits 5mm lower to the ground than the HR-V.


The small-SUV segment is one of the fastest-growing in the country, with sales increasing 18.4 per cent in 2018 – the most of any segment – while the HR-V recorded 12,148 deliveries, placing it third for company sales behind the CR-V medium SUV and Civic small car.


However, Honda Australia director Stephen Collins said the car-maker has decided against bringing the WR-V to Australia, saying it was not well-suited to the Australian market.


“We did quite a big study on (the WR-V), we had a couple of cars here and involved our dealers in some of that, and really our conclusion is it’s just not suitable for this market,” he said.


“So pretty much we’re at the end of that and the answer is we’re not going to take that car here.”


When asked why the WR-V would be unsuited to Australia, Mr Collins said: “We just think that we couldn’t get the spec that we wanted, and we think that HR-V is doing a very good job, so the incremental volume of that particular car that was not really designed for advanced markets is just not for us.”


With its current eight-model product portfolio, Honda has signalled a large SUV and pick-up as the two most important gaps in its line-up, and model segments that accounted for the third (4x4 pick-up) and fifth (large SUV) most sales in Australia last year.


“I think the obvious one is a large SUV, the other obvious one that always comes up is a pick-up, but there’s no prospect of it,” said Mr Collins.


“We’re constantly saying there’s this big chunk of the market which is growing and we can’t compete in, so yeah, we do, but there’s just nothing on the horizon.”


Honda Australia general manager product, customer and communications Rob Thorp said the company would “be the first one to put our hands up for it” if a large SUV became available, however, the addition of a seven-seat CR-V medium SUV has helped plug some of that gap, according to Mr Collins.


“In some respects, launching the seven-seater (CR-V), we’re not pretending it’s a large SUV, but it has certainly broadened its appeal, and I think today’s people want that occasional third row, and many of those tend to be large SUV buyers,” he said.


“I think we’ve been pretty happy with its performance. I think that’s contributed to the fact that we’ve got something like 14 per cent share of that segment, we’re second only to CX-5.


“But there’s nothing in terms of a brand-new product to plug into that large-SUV market.”


Aside from the large SUV and pick-up, Mr Thorp said Honda Australia was happy with how the rest of its product portfolio looked with competitive models in key segments.


“I think you take those two the next of the five biggest segments we’ve got really competitive cars in all of them,” he said.


“Outside of that we’re pretty happy with our positioning with each of those. Medium SUV, small SUV, small, light et cetera.


“I think we’re pretty well positioned in each of them, but knowing that, they are the two gaps we would love to fill.”

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