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Shift industry support to hybrids, says Honda

Hybrid power: Honda believes more fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles, such as the CR-Z two-door coupe, would benefit from subsidies encouraging buyers to look at low-emissions technology.

Money earmarked for Australian car-makers can now support eco-car buyers, says Honda

14 Feb 2014

HONDA has urged Australia’s federal and state governments to start throwing considerable taxpayer support behind hybrids and other eco-cars, particularly as funds free up with the demise of the local car manufacturing industry by the end of 2017.

Honda Australia director Stephen Collins said supporting vehicles with emissions-cutting technology would only cost millions of dollars instead of the hundreds of millions used to prop up Ford, which is closing its factories in 2016, and Toyota and Holden, which are pulling up stumps the following year.

He said this would also make fuel-saving technology more attractive in the eyes of buyers.

“We would like to see incentives for eco-cars,” Mr Collins said this week at the launch of the fifth-generation Honda Odyssey people-mover, which is slated to get a petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain instead of a diesel engine.

“I wouldn’t say it’s worth diverting all those funds from the local manufacturers, but I think it makes sense.

“In other major markets we see significant incentives for eco-cars and we don’t see that here. Whether it is for EVs (electric vehicles), hybrids or whatever, I think that makes sense.

“It’s probably millions (of dollars of support) when you total it all up, but we’re not talking hundreds of millions of dollars of support.”

Honda has several hybrid models on the Australian market, including the Civic small sedan, Jazz city-friendly hatchback, and the CR-Z sports coupe that is the only manual gearbox-equipped hybrid vehicle on sale here.

However, the Honda-badged models have struggled to sell well as high premiums for the eco-car range and, in the case of the Civic hybrid, supply restrictions bite into their sales potential.

Australia’s lack of support for hybrid cars has also seen us miss out on hybrid models from other car-makers such as the Mazda3 sedan, which in Japan carries about a $2000 premium over an equivalent petrol-engined version.

Mr Collins said a good example for Australia was Japan, where government support for hybrid and electric models has seen them grow to about 60 per cent of all models sold on the domestic market.

He said since the announcement that all three of Australia’s car-makers would pull out of manufacturing by the end of 2017, it was time for importers to start pushing for support for better buyer access to fuel-efficient technologies.

“I think clearly that’s the long-term future, and I think different manufacturers are talking different technologies, but at the end of the day it’s eco-cars that we should be pushing harder and we should be getting support,” he said.

“I think that will encourage consumers to look twice – it just makes sense.”

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