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Honda sales to plateau in 2014

Core model: The third-generation Honda Jazz will arrive in July this year, following the Odyssey people-mover (left) in February.

New models on the way, but Honda predicts minimal sales growth for 2014

Market Insight logo22 Jan 2014

By TIM NICHOLSON

HONDA’S Australian arm is expecting almost zero sales growth in 2014, despite a number of key new models launching in the coming months and the arrival of the long-awaited diesel-powered CR-V.

The Japanese car-maker sold 39,258 cars in Australia last year to be the tenth best-selling brand in the country, but its local chief is only predicting a minor boost to 40,000 units in 2014.

Honda’s 2013 sales tally marks a 9.6 per cent increase over the previous year’s total of 35,812, but is still well below its 2007 sales high of 60,529 units.

Honda’s two biggest sellers last year were the Civic hatch and sedan range on 14,261 sales and the CR-V mid-size SUV with 12,510 units. Combined, these make up 68 per cent of the company’s 2013 sales volume.

Both models enjoyed a healthy sales boost over the previous year, with the Civic up by 24 per cent, while the CR-V enjoyed a 164 per cent increase on its 2012 figures.

The only other model in it arsenal to experience sales growth was the Thai-built Accord sedan that shifted 3006 units for a 92 per cent boost, while the aging Accord Euro dropped by 70 per cent to 1834 sales.

All other Honda models were down to varying degrees, including the City (-0.9 per cent), the CR-Z hybrid coupe (-84 per cent), the Insight hybrid hatch (-21.5 per cent), the Jazz light-car (-37 per cent) and the soon-to-be-replaced Odyssey MPV (-35 per cent).

Honda’s 2014 launch schedule includes the new Odyssey people-mover next month and the third-generation Jazz light hatch and its City sedan sibling in July.

Despite record sales of 1.13 million vehicles for the local market in 2013, Honda Australia director Stephen Collins said he was expecting similar numbers for overall year-end sales in 2014.

“We are aiming for a minimum of 40,000 for 2014 and the reason for that is that our biggest volume new model introduction, which is the Jazz, won’t hit until the second half of the year,” he said.

Mr Collins said the somewhat conservative sales projections for this year were due to the Jazz-based ‘Vezel’ light crossover not launching here until the first quarter of 2015.

“That’s our target but again, depending a little bit on what happens in the market and whether the segmentation also is clearly still shifting to small SUVs and we are not going to be in that segment for another 12 months or so,” he said.

“I think 40,000 is the number. I’d be optimistic we could do more but that is our target.”

Mr Collins said Honda’s motorcycle and power equipment dealers would be used to promote the automotive side of the business – specifically the diesel CR-V – in regional and rural areas not covered by the dealer network.

“We are really just looking for those power equipment dealers to know about the car and help us raise awareness,” he said.

“In provincial and rural Australia, we are really well covered with our dealer network and we are not really looking to expand that. We are just working closely with our MPE (motorcycle and power equipment) business.”

Beyond 2014, the Vezel will be launched early next year and then Honda will inject some much-needed excitement into its line-up with the 2.0-litre turbo-charged Civic Type R hot-hatch in late 2015 and the re-born NSX hybrid supercar that is set to arrive at some point in either 2015 or 2016.

Models that are looking increasingly unlikely for the local market include the Indonesian-built Jazz-based Freed compact people-mover that was mooted back in 2010, while the sub-Jazz Brio hatch that has been on the cards since late 2012 is still being evaluated.

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