At the launch of the fourth-generation Honda CR-V, Mr Nakahawa was asked why the all-new model is equipped with essentially a decade-old engine that hasn’t been updated to include direct injection. The new generation also persists with a five-speed automatic, where most new rivals offer at least six gears.
“That goes beyond a CR-V issue,” said Mr Nakagawa. “That’s a whole issue for Honda in that case.”
The CR-V is not expected to get an engine update in the near future, nor is a hybrid model planned. However the project boss confessed the company “will need to take on board and consider [the technologies offered by competitors]”.
Mazda, for example, is expanding its line-up of brand new SkyActiv engines, which in addition to direct injection, feature stop-start technology, and brake regeneration with a capacitor to harness energy, as a dedicated source to power the electrics.
Honda R&D was strangled in the aftermath of the GFC in 2008, and the products that were being designed and engineered four years ago and are just coming to market – such as the new Civic and CR-V – were directly affected by the cuts.
Stop-start technology, dubbed ‘idle stop’ by Honda, is available on the CR-V overseas, but is notable for its absence on Australian-spec models. Honda Australia director, Stephen Collins, remarked that “a cost-benefit scenario” meant the fuel-saving technology was sidelined for local models.
Honda was hit hard by the Thailand floods, which ravaged its plants there last year. Although Honda Australia was able to briefly source production of the Jazz from Japan, that wasn’t the case for the CR-V. Collins told CarAdvice that for the first half of the year, the company wasn’t able to import a single CR-V.
From the heady days of the turn of the milennium, when the first generation CR-V captured a staggering 41 percent of the compact SUV market – admittedly in a then-tiny category, with Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester the only other main players – Honda watched as CR-V sales trickled to zero early this year.
Collins confirmed that supply will not be an issue with the new CR-V, as the company plans to sell at least 1000 units per month.
That figure is expected to be boosted even further from mid-next-year, with Honda confirming that a 110kW/350Nm 2.2-litre i-DTEC turbo-diesel will join the range from mid next year. A six-speed auto will be the single transmission choice – unlike the manual-only Civic 1.6-litre i-DTEC that will join the range at the same time – and the combination is rated at 5.8L/100km combined, a compact SUV benchmark.
While engineering new technologies is a longer-term issue for Honda in Japan, the short-term task for the Australian arm is simple, according to the company director. “The priority is to get CR-V back to the top of the shopping list for SUV buyers”.