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We will hit 40,000 in 2016: Honda

Hot cakes: Honda’s recently launched HR-V compact SUV is flying out of dealerships across the country.

Popular HR-V to underpin Honda’s local efforts but other models need to pull weight

19 Jun 2015

HONDA’S popular HR-V crossover continues to set new records, but softening sales in other segments threaten Honda Australia’s prediction of a 40,000-sale year.

The compact SUV only went on sale in February, but has already recorded sales of 3891 – 910 selling last month alone – which places it fourth in its segment behind Hyundai’s ix35 (7620 sales for 2015), the Mitsubishi ASX (4626) and the Nissan Qashqai (4345).

Honda Australia director Stephen Collins told journalists that it had been a goal of the company for twelve months to cross the 40,000 sales barrier – a total last achieved by the company in 2010.

“We’ve been working very hard in implementing our plan to recover our overall volume. We said many times before that our goal is to return to forty thousand units this year,” Mr Collins told journalists at the launch of the Accord Hybrid Sport in New South Wales this week.

“We’re very confident we will achieve around twenty thousand units at the halfway point (of the year), so we’re well and truly on track.”

Mr Collins admitted to GoAuto that while supply lines of the HR-V were under control for the moment, that situation might change going forward.

“Throughout all of Asia-Oceania, HR-V is doing very, very well,” Mr Collins said. “The Thai factory is pretty much at capacity. We're certainly getting our fair share, but the top-spec models are particularly tight.

“I think the wait now is maybe at least a couple of months on the top-spec cars in certain colours. We're looking to address that. Demand is certainly outstripping supply at the moment.”

There are no such concerns for the popular Jazz, and Mr Collins suggested that even though the car is only 12 months old, discussion around the next model are already well under way.

“I think keeping any product fresh, particularly in that life-cycle, is very important. We're working on mid-life, and even starting to think about the next-generation car,” he said.

In terms of the mid-sized CR-V, Mr Collins said the company’s local arm is finding it difficult convincing potential buyers to include it on their shopping lists.

“I’m not sure we’re happy with how CR-V is going. We need to get it on more shopping lists,” he said. “Once people see and feel the car, we have a good sale closure rate. It’s about getting people to add the CR-V to their list.”

CR-V sales are down 15.7 per cent year on year, with 3235 sales notched up for 2015. While another facelift is not due for a year at least, a new diesel engine upgrade is in the planning stages for late in 2015.

There is not much good news throughout the rest of the Honda catalogue, with Civic and Accord sales in freefall, and no large SUV in sight in the Honda worldwide catalogue.

Accord, in particular, has not fired since its launch 18 months ago, with 410 units sold so far in 2015, and just 86 units in May, showing losses of about 50 per cent both month-to-month and year-on-year.

A resurgence from fellow Japanese company Subaru (Liberty’s 1667 sales are up 250 per cent year on year) has not helped the picture, but the rest of the category is also showing sings of slowing.

Mr Collins admits that the category is “tough”.

“It's a segment that's declining. I don't think anyone's finding it easy in that segment,” he said. “I don't think we're overall completely happy with the volume, but I think the hybrid will give it an injection of newness.

“Look, it's a tough segment. It's not a core car for us, but it's an important car. We're doing as much as we can, but yeah, it's a tough segment.”

A large SUV still eludes the carmaker, too, without a player in the category since the demise of the MDX in 2011.

“I think there's no question we would love a large SUV,” he said. “At this stage, certainly right-hand drive, there's nothing available to us. It doesn't mean that we're not trying and we're not looking for that option somewhere in the global world.

“I think for those who want to progress from a CR-V mid-size up, it's a clear opportunity. We'll keep searching, and see what happens down the track. But at this stage, there's nothing on the horizon.”

Honda recently previewed the Pilot SUV in the United States, but it will not be built in right-hand-drive.

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