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New CR-V set to drive up Honda sales

Civic duty: Honda has just launched the CR-V (below) in Australia, but the Civic will remain its top seller.

Honda HR-V, CR-V to hit 2400 combined units monthly but Civic will be top seller

1 Aug 2017

BUOYED by the arrival last week of the new-generation CR-V mid-size SUV, Honda is confident it will achieve its intended 48,000 sales this year across its entire model range – a figure that could put it back among the top 10 best-selling brands in Australia.

Despite the new Civic being the only model in positive territory at the halfway mark of the year, sales of Honda’s new-generation small car have skyrocketed 351 per cent – or more than 5100 units – to singlehandedly put the Japanese brand 11.2 per cent ahead of where it was at this point last year, with 21,831 sales across the board to the end of June.

With the long-awaited new CR-V now here, Honda expects to shift around 1200 units monthly, thanks to value pricing and specification improvements that come with the all-new design.

“We said 48,000 sales and we’re on track to achieve that,” Honda Australia director Stephen Collins told GoAuto at the launch of the CR-V in Canberra last week. “I don’t see any reason why we won’t achieve that number.

“It’s going to be mainly the CR-V which will bring us home fast. We want to do at least 1200 CR-Vs a month, and if you look back on what we’ve been doing with the runout CR-V, it’s probably half or less than half of that. So the CR-V will give us a big run in the second half of this year.”

As previously reported, Honda’s best sales year in Australia was in 2007 when it sold 60,529 vehicles, but this fell to a low-point of 30,107 in 2011 before climbing its way back to 40,838 units last year – thanks in large part to incremental volume brought by the HR-V small SUV launched in 2015.

Mr Collins said the ballistic 228kW/400Nm Civic Type R hot hatch will further boost the Civic’s numbers beyond the already strong sales of the regular sedan and hatchback variants.

The launch of the hatch in May now sees Civic (with 6563 sales) outpacing various small-car rivals including the Subaru Impreza (6373), Holden Astra (4735), Mitsubishi Lancer (3602) and Ford Focus (3243).

 center imageLeft: Honda Australia director Stephen Collins

“Civic in totality will be our biggest-selling car, and HR-V and CR-V will be similar monthly volumes. The way we see it, we have three really strong core models now that are consistently doing those sorts of volumes,” Mr Collins said.

“And, of course, Type R will be the icing on the top for Civic when it comes.

As of now we have about 300 orders, and that will give us a bit more incremental volume on top of the current Civic volumes.”

Of the four CR-V grades Honda is offering from launch, the mid-spec VTi-S from $33,290 plus on-road costs is expected to account for the lion’s share of sales at 45 per cent (split 75:25 2WD versus AWD), followed by the base VTi 2WD and flagship VTi-LX AWD at 20 per cent apiece respectively.

While this leaves the sole seven-seater in single-spec VTi-L 2WD guise from $38,990 with the remaining 15 per cent, Mr Collins said he believed the three-row version – the first in CR-V history – would attract fresh customers who would have never before considered the vehicle.

“More than 40 per cent will be for the VTi-S,” Mr Collins said. “And we think the majority will be for the five-seater. Roughly speaking we’re expecting around 150 sales per month for the seven-seater, so really the core of the volume will be the five-seater.

“If you look at the segment, the vast majority of volume is in the five-seater versions. We see the seven-seater SUV as incremental business for us, targeting families who only want that occasional third row.”

Although the CR-V seven-seater is initially a single-spec proposition from launch, Mr Collins revealed that additional variants are at the ready should there be strong demand, including an all-wheel-drive version.

“We looked at four-wheel drive, we looked at a base spec, but really what was pretty obvious is that the biggest opportunity is in the top-spec 2WD,” he said.

“We’ll seek feedback from the dealers and seek feedback from customers, and if there’s demand then we can look at more seven-seater versions.”

The CR-V is one of just a handful of mid-size SUVs that are offered with a third row option in Australia. The Mitsubishi Outlander and Nissan X-Trail are both available as seven-seaters, while the imminent Volkswagen Tiguan will soon lob in Allspace guise.

According to a Honda Australia spokesperson, the latest CR-V’s unprecedented reception in the United States is boosting the company’s confidence, where January-to-June sales are up 18 per cent over the same period last year.

In the US, CR-V is on track to pass 400,000 units in a single year for the first time, up from the record 357,000-plus registrations the previous edition managed in 2016. In contrast, Honda has taken 20 years to shift 170,000 CR-Vs in Australia.

With stocks of the previous version drying up, local CR-V year-to-date sales are down 26.5 per cent to 2997 registrations. The SUV managed 7970 sales last year, which was nearly one-third of the top-selling Mazda CX-5’s total of 24,564 units.

CR-V’s best year in Australia was way back in 2000, when 12,866 units were sold.

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