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Tony O'Kane | Feb, 29 2012 | 3 Comments

In 2011, Honda Australia's sales dropped to 30,107 cars - a massive 10,000 units less than the previous year, thanks to the disastrous earthquake in Japan and last year's flooding in Thailand.

The brand's ageing local line-up also had an impact in a year when many of its competitors lined up with a fresh armoury of new products.

For 2012 though, Honda aims to pick itself up and get sales figures back to 40,000 units per year (the amount it sold in 2010).

Key to its recovery is the arrival of several new core products, as well as a shift in sourcing.

The first of these new products is the Civic sedan range, which launched locally this week with a new three-variant strategy, improved specification levels and dramatically reduced pricing.

The VTi badge has been dropped, with the VTi-L now becoming the entry level model.

Despite boasting higher levels of standard equipment, the 2012 Civic VTi-L is $3700 cheaper than the model it replaces.

Its sharp pricing is expected to make the VTi-L the volume-seller in the Civic sedan range, accounting for 70 percent of overall sales.

The $27,990 Civic Sport will make up 25 percent of volume, with the remaining 5 percent taken up by the $35,990 Civic Hybrid.

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By year’s end, Honda expects to sell roughly 1000 Civic Sedans per month, making up a quarter of the automaker’s local sales volume.

Due to the devastation wrought by the Thai floods last year, the Civic sedan is initially being sourced from Japan.

Honda Australia expects Thai production will be back on track in the third quarter of this year though, at which point sourcing for the Civic sedan will gradually switch back to Thailand.

Later in the year, satellite navigation will also become an option on Thai-sourced Civic sedans.

The arrival of the new Civic five-door hatchback in July will add additional volume, and will also be the first Honda passenger car to be sold locally with a diesel engine.

It’s unclear whether the 2013 Civic hatch will be offered in more than one model grade, however Honda Australia Director Stephen Collins confirmed to TMR that it will be sold with either a 1.8 litre petrol or a diesel engine.

Sales predictions for the 2013 Honda Civic hatch are more modest than the sedan, with Honda targeting 500 cars per month.

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In the fourth quarter of 2012, the all-new CR-V will land in Australian showrooms. A 2.4 litre petrol engine will be available, and there are plans to add a diesel to the CR-V range for the first time too.

Mr Collins told TMR that the automaker hopes to have a diesel CR-V available from launch, however availability of that powertrain has yet to be finalised.

The arrival of the Jazz Hybrid in late 2012 isn’t expected to add significant sales, but it will give Honda a competitor to the upcoming Toyota Prius C compact hybrid.

Toyota says the Prius C will be Australia’s most affordable hybrid when it arrives here next month, however with pricing still yet to be revealed it’s unclear how much cheaper it will be compared to the current cheapest hybrid, the $29,990 Honda Insight VTi.

Collins wouldn’t be drawn on the Jazz Hybrid’s sticker price, however he did say that it would be "in the mid-20s” and that Honda had no desire to battle Toyota for the title of “Australia’s cheapest hybrid”.

With two new small cars and an all-new compact SUV set to be launched this year, Honda should be able to make up the ground it lost in 2011.

Its target of 40,000 cars by the end of the year seems conservative, and with the keen pricing of the 2012 Civic it should be able to hit that mark.

The company also expects the Japan-sourced Accord Euro and Odyssey to carry the brand through the first half of the year, while Honda’s Thai facilities are rebuilt.

Recent price and spec adjustments make both models attractive propositions.

The Japanese automaker has a big task ahead of it. Its mid-term plan is to achieve 60,000 sales for the 2014 calendar year - double what it achieved in 2011.

- Tony O'Kane
TMR Review Editor

 
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