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Last 7 Days

by Daniel DeGasperi

Honda in Japan isn’t satisfied with the brand’s performance in Australia, particularly relative to Mazda. We are one of few markets worldwide where Honda is outsold by its fellow Japanese rival, and by a staggering margin – last year, 88,000 Mazdas were sold here, almost 58,000 units ahead.

“Honda [HQ] are unhappy that we are outsold by Mazda,” admitted Honda Australia’s principal advisor, Lindsay Smalley, who promises growth and expansion for the brand in Australia next year.

“If you look at Mazda almost anywhere in the world, they’re down. Except here. The position here … they [Honda HQ] find difficult to accept.”

He wants to see the brand become the “pre-eminent importer” in this country.

The sales growth starts with the Honda Civic range in 2012/13. The Thai-built sedan and UK-built hatch are currently retailing at $21,990 driveaway, and Smalley expects sales of the pair to notch up “at least” 1400 units per month. Last year the Civic nameplate averaged just 542 units per month.

Speaking at the launch of the new-generation Honda CR-V, Smalley told of how the Thailand floods meant production of CR-V, in particular, was cut off until the middle of this year. “We had no CR-Vs until July,” said Smalley, addressing comments that the compact SUV is down 39 per cent year-to-date.

Bolstered by a sub-$30K front-drive variant, Honda is out to attack the Mazda CX-5 with its fourth-generation CR-V. The official sales projection is 1000 units per month, however Smalley reckons this is a “very conservative” estimate.

Next year will see the launch of the new wide-body Accord. Although sales of the current generation are down 46 per cent year-to-date, its smaller Accord Euro sibling is up by around the same figure. Smalley cited the simple reason why: “We dropped prices on Euro to keep stock running through dealers. We wanted to keep as many staff as possible and the volumes up”.

The Euro is built in Japan and was unaffected by the Thailand floods, which destroyed the Honda plants that built Accord, CR-V and Jazz. Only for the latter small car could Honda switch production to Japan until the Thailand factory came back on line.

Next year, the Jazz Hybrid will launch in the first quarter, with Civic and CR-V diesels, and the facelifted CR-Z, to follow in the second. Longer term, a new MDX (see breakout story), Accord Hybrid, Civic Type-R, Legend, and S2000-replacement are forecast.

If Honda had the Civic and CR-V performing to their latest forecasts last year, the two nameplates alone would have added nearly 17,000 units to the company’s 30,107 total. That would have placed it marginally ahead of Volkswagen (44,740) and Subaru (34,011), but still behind Nissan (67,926) and Mitsubishi (61,108).