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'Small' recipe proves spot on for Honda

Like Mazda, Honda is keeping its model options limited, having quietly dropped its under-performing MDX luxury SUV model last year.

That just leaves the strong sales performers, which have Honda in seventh place, narrowly behind Mitsubishi, despite now having only one SUV on the market.

Honda Australia managing director and CEO Yasuhide Mizuno said Civic sales are up 58 per cent, Jazz 42 per cent, Accord 75 per cent and CR-V 26 per cent.

Mizuno, who began on the assembly line in 1986 and has worked for Honda in bikes and cars in Japan, Thailand, Taiwan and Malaysia, says worldwide revenue last year from 3.65 million cars was $111 billion, up 12 per cent.

But while there are more Honda models available overseas, Australia gets a limited seven-car line-up with the Legend luxury saloon re-introduced last year.

Honda Australia senior director Lindsay Smalley says between now and 2010 they will have an update on all models, but only release three new models.

The first of these is the British-built Civic Type-R hot hatch which hits the showrooms this month. The standard three-door and five-door hatches are also expected in about 18 months and the other model is possibly the seven-seater Pilot, a replacement for the MDX.

“It's the same size as the MDX but more of a family large wagon rather than a luxury SUV,” Smalley said. “We haven't really studied it yet.”

Smalley said diesel versions of its Accord and VR-V were a possibility when Honda introduced its cleaner generation-two diesel engines in the next two years.

The Acura luxury division, like Toyota's Lexus, is also a possibility, but Smalley says it is unlikely before 2015.

“We would have to be selling about 100,000 a year,” he said.

Last year Honda Australia sold 56,000 unit and this year Smalley expects to sell 64,000.

He said sales growth depended on getting more Honda dealers. At present they have 96 nationally, but will increase that to 125by 2010.