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by Tim Beissmann

Honda Australia’s dismal start to 2014 will see it fall well short of its ambitious sales targets stated 12 months ago.

Last May, Honda announced a goal of selling 50,000 new cars across the country this year on the way to returning to its 2007 record of 60,000 sales in 2015.

The reality has been very different, however. The Japanese company has suffered in showrooms so far this year, with January-April sales down 33.6 per cent to just 9789.

At the current rate, it’s on track to sell fewer than 30,000 cars this year, flopping below its worst result in recent history – 30,107 in 2011.

honda-civic-hatch

Honda Australia director Stephen Collins told CarAdvice he expects sales to pick up in the second half of the year, though admits the final figure will come up a long way short of last year’s targets.

“The market’s down three or four per cent so we’re expecting to get close to 40,000,” Collins said. “If you keep in mind how far the market’s down we’re talking high 30,000s.”

Collins said Honda Australia has been hurt by short supply of the run-out Jazz (1534 units to April, down 33.2 per cent), and said CR-V (3120, down 34.1 per cent) had been softer in the early months of the year after launching with a high at the beginning of 2013.

He also admitted Civic hatch sales had dipped following a $1000 price increase for the 2014 model. Total Civic hatch and sedan sales are down 42.4 per cent to 3045 so far this year. The Accord (616, down 40.0 per cent) and Accord Euro (352, down 56.3 per cent) have also underperformed significantly compared with 2013.

The company has only sold 132 hybrids in 2014, including 101 Jazz Hybrids, 21 CR-Zs, nine Civic Hybrids and one Insight.

The sole bright spot has been the new Odyssey, which is up 152.7 per cent this year with 801 sales.

honda-hr-v

Collins says Honda’s new light cars will lead the turnaround, with the brand forecasting minimum annual sales of 10,000 for both the all-new Jazz, which launches in July, and the HR-V sub-compact SUV, which will reach showrooms in January 2015. He said a couple of model upgrades and limited editions would also refresh the range mildly in the second half of 2014.

“We’ll be looking to build to 50,000 in 2015 on the back of obviously having these new products in the marketplace. I’d be very disappointed if we didn’t get 50,000, then beyond that we’ll get back to the 60,000 mark.

“I see that 50,000-60,000 mark as really where the brand needs to be. We’ve still got plenty of hard work to get there, but I think much of it is just bringing in good products [and] pricing them well for what customers want. Our dealer network is geared for that sort of volume and that’s where we need to be.”

Honda currently sits 10th on the list of top-selling brands in Australia. Its 9789 total puts it more than 3000 sales adrift of ninth-placed Subaru (12,887), and only narrowly ahead of Kia (9550), Mercedes-Benz (9355) and Jeep (8758).




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