The Accord Hybrid Sport launched in June 2015 at $58,990 plus on-road costs, and was widely met with question marks over its price despite its clever hybrid drive system.
The mid-sized petrol-electric sedan was never expected to sell in big numbers. And it didn’t.
“We never expected to sell huge volumes, and we achieved that objective,” he said, tongue in cheek,” said Honda Australia director Stephen Collins at a meeting this week with local media.
“The numbers are very small on Accord Hybrid. It’s a tough segment and it’s tough to sell them,” he said.
“I don’t think it was a mistake [to bring the Accord Hybrid in],” he said. “What we’ve said all along is that one part of getting our mojo back is bringing the latest in technology. And that was part of that strategy.
“I think it’s very important to bring the latest technology to the market. And the market will determine whether it sells or not,” he said.
With fuel prices at decade lows across the country, there’s clearly a problem in terms of demand for fuel-efficient models. Collins said the fact prices are so low “doesn’t help” when you’re trying to sell hybrids.
As for the other changes to the Accord range, there’s little known at this point.
“We have a model change, what we call a mid-life change, happening in the next few months. And it’s tough,” he said of the flagging mid-size sedan segment.
“Our volume is pretty small. That segment is particularly tough, and it seems the trend is not dissimilar to the large car trend,” Collins asserted, despite the fact that mid-size model sales have actually risen in recent times. In 2015 the segment rose 9.7 per cent, where the Accord dropped 44.4 per cent.
“So, yeah, it’s a tough segment and the volume is pretty small,” he said.
The current-generation Accord has been around since 2013, and could be due for replacement as soon as 2018. And with sales already dwindling, there’s a real chance the new-generation model won’t be sold here.
“Our desire is absolutely to keep it,” said Collins. “We’re starting to think about the next-generation car, which I’ve seen will be certainly more sporty.
“What will determine what happens is what happens with that segment. So yes, we have an absolute desire to keep it, it’s an iconic brand name,” he said.
“It’s certainly within our product planning schedule, for sure. I think it’s important have that sort of flagship sedan, but it’s a tough segment, and it’s not growing – that’s for sure,” Collins said.
As for hybrids more generally, the dumping of the Accord Hybrid will leave the Japanese brand without a hybrid as part of its ranks for the first time in years. Honda was the first company to sell a hybrid model in Australia with the original Insight, which pre-dated the Toyota Prius in arriving Down Under.
“We were the first. The point I would make is that globally we are definitely not walking away from it,” Collins said.
“The reality is that the market in Australia is a small piece of the pie that we’re looking at hybrid a lot differently to what we were three or four years ago,” he said.
The Honda range won’t be without a hybrid for long, though, with the NSX supercar arriving later this year with its 427kW and 646N powertrain appealing to a very different type of buyer.