Honda is planning to claw back lost sales in the UK and mainland Europe with a raft of new models
25 October 2015

Honda is looking to rebuild its British and wider European operations with “five new models” after years of collapsing sales in western Europe.

In the medium term, Honda will launch a new and much less controversially styled Civic range. The new Civics — previewed by a concept at the New York show in April and expected in 2017 — will herald a fresh range of downsized turbocharged petrol engines to replace Honda’s trademark high-revving naturally aspirated petrol motors.

Honda’s Swindon plant will become the global HQ for production of the new Civic hatch. The firm’s willingness to invest in European-focused product is underlined by the fact that out of the 26 million engines the company builds each year, just 100,000 are the 1.6-litre diesel, which is currently only sold in Europe.

Last year, Honda sold about 4.5m vehicles across the globe. However, just 150,000 of those found homes in Europe. More remarkably, Honda bosses estimate that, of the 150,000 European Honda sales, as many as 60,000 units are sold in UK.

Phil Webb, the new head of Honda UK’s cars division, said the arrival of the HR-V compact crossover and the all-new Jazz will be backed up by the facelifted Civic and CR-V crossover (including the new twin-turbo diesel version) in the push to regrow the brand.

Philip Crossman, Honda UK’s managing director, said the new Civic Type R is also vital in getting consumers to re-engage with Honda. The model will have a limited two-year production run and is now also scheduled to be exported to Japan. The arrival of the NSX hybrid supercar next year will also help Honda’s visibility with new car buyers.

Although Honda sees the UK as having great potential for increased sales, Webb said the French and German markets will be a “much bigger challenge” for the brand.

Webb said: “We think that we can raise UK sales to 80,000 per year. That would be an organic and natural growth for us.” He went on to say that he thinks there is in the UK “great pent-up demand for the new Jazz”, which remains highly popular with its loyal customer base.

Webb also said Honda is behind in the adoption of PCP sales at its UK dealers. PCPs that its dealers have executed so far have had a buyer retention rate of up to 70%. He added that keeping buyers within the brand is something car makers are keen to see.

What happened to Honda?

Honda’s fall from grace — or failure to gain traction — in Europe is one of the car industry’s biggest mysteries.

The firm has a long history of building highly reliable machinery and it has been putting a lot of effort into its European models since the space-age Civic was unveiled nearly a decade ago.

But in the first eight months of this year, Honda sales in western Europe continued to dip, dropping just over 7% to 73,400 cars. In 1990 Honda had just 1.2% of the EU market. It peaked at 2% in 2007 but slid to just over 1% last year.

There’s no justice. The CR-V sells in huge numbers in the US and the Jazz is arguably the cleverest, most practical supermini available. In the wake of the diesel scandal, perhaps its world-leading expertise in petrol engines will finally deliver a boost.

Read our full review on the Honda HR-V

Read our full review of the Honda CR-V

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Our Verdict

Honda Civic

The Honda Civic is an impressive achievement and a worthy rival to the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus, but it isn't quite up to class-leading standards

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Comments
17

25 October 2015
The article refers to Honda's plan to introduce 5 new models, yet only mentions the Civic and NSX. Whilst i can see a new Civic can only improve matters, the NSX wont make much difference. What are the other 3? .......

But to quote Autocar 'Honda’s fall from grace — or failure to gain traction — in Europe is one of the car industry’s biggest mysteries.' ........A mystery to who? have you seen the current civic, so wilfully ugly that only the most devoted Honda buyer will select one.....And if that is bad what about the current Accord, or FRV or CRZ or Insight, or their range of Hybrids. At least the Civic is still on sale. Honda now has a range of 4 cars, Jazz, Civic, HRV and CRV. ....At least the new Type R shows that their is still some spirit at Honda, but try to find one other car in that range to interest anyone with petrol in their blood. ...Honda gave up in Europe and stopped selling anything interesting. that is why their sales collapsed.

25 October 2015
I agree with the previous post.
Honda can look at their past successes for guidance for future products.
The original Jazz is simple, practical, easy to drive and looks like an integrated, quality product.
On the other hand the recent Civics have nice but sleek and pretentious shapes, and are difficult to use in terms of access, visibility and ergonomics.
I bought a Nissan instead of the new Jazz mostly because of front legroom issues and also because the Jazz interior has lost the simplicity, elegance and quality of the original.
Honda should forget 'space age' and remember to design for human beings.

25 October 2015
grastehar wrote:

On the other hand the recent Civics have nice but sleek and pretentious shapes, and are difficult to use in terms of access, visibility and ergonomics.

Pretentious? In a car market gone mad for buying things that look like off-roaders but aren't really? It's hard to imagine anything more pretentious than the qashqai. The civic isn't pretending to be anything other than a stylish hatchback.

As to poor access and ergonomics, I can't say I noticed any when I tried the Civic Tourer. Obviously it's a small estate so it hasn't got acres of legroom or a huge boot but it didn't find it any worse than it's competing small estates. Ergonomics seemed a strong point with a good android-based satnav system and decent loading capability.

As to the CO2 emissions and tax someone mentioned, Honda's 1.6 diesel civic has just about the lowest CO2 emissions available in reality and the imaginary figures have been pushed far enough to make it zero road tax.

Personally I think it's a great shame that we're getting the bland US civics instead of a new generation of interestingly styled European Civic. It seems yet another car company that's going after the lowest common denominator of inoffensive hatchbacks and crossovers rather than offering something more stylish. Maybe Honda will bring the S660 or Stepwagn over to keep a bit of interest in their range.

In the article it's given as an example that the 1.6 diesel only makes up 100,000 out of 26 million engines Honda makes each year. This seems a bit misleading as you then go on to say Honda's annual vehicle production is 4.5 million. Honda makes several types of vehicle including motorbikes and quadbikes so presumably the car production is even smaller. 100,000 out of a couple of million cars is a much more significant percentage of the market.

25 October 2015
Interestingly, it was precisely the poor access that put me off the Civic in 2009! One of my oft-carried passengers had some back problems. Whilst they were fine getting in and out of my (brilliant/2004 version) Jazz, the steeply raked back A-pillar on the Civic meant that they could not get in without pain! To quote "you can have the car but I wont be getting into it"! Apart from that, the test car rattled/creaked and buzzed a lot, and view out for rear passengers was poor. I liked the 2.2 diesel though. The newer Jazz of the time was disappointing in other ways, and gutless. There's no way I would trade my Golf for the current Civic, which retains the same access and visibility flaws that it did in 2009, and has looks now which to my eyes, are challenging. Oh, and no spare wheel.

25 October 2015
I agree with the two above, it is no mystery, Honda's designs made their limited range outside of any consideration for many buyers, also why did they pull their hybrids, my dad runs an 09 insight which is an excellent car that consistently achieves over 50mpg making it a great choice for people who mostly drive around towns though its occasional motorway run still yields the same economy, the crz needed a performance boost, with which it would sell well as it was a great looking small coupe. Honda's range and sales are small due to their overstyled mainstream civic and shortsightedness in adapting the rest of their products for European tastes. Prius sells well, so could insight.

Oh I think the new jazz has gone the same way as the civic, fussy overstyling.

25 October 2015
They have a confused cheapened range that is overstyled. It isnt a wonder why Hondas dont sell at all. The Civic is the ugliest car on sale in the UK, horrible interior ergonomics with co fused dash and the view out of the back cut in half, horrible solid axle rear suspension, horrible CO2 and road tax, really pricey. Why? How did such a rational sensible car with premium engineering turn into this? So I did some digging around and found out that Honda is just another appliance manufacturer now along with Toyota chasing margins beyond anything else. I feel cynical, I am guessing their new strategy is to turn out tat for their regular "margin" models and put a bit of effort into performance halos.

25 October 2015
Or, put another way, they are replacing some of their current models

25 October 2015
Honda are capable of doing great things when they want but are just too slow!!!! YEARS ago they needed a CR-V below 129g/km CO2 for fleet sales, it took two facelifts to get there years too late the market had moved on. They needed the better auto boxes, again years too late, the hybrids could have been developed on with much bigger batteries and plug-in ability as hybrids are selling hugely, for goodness sake they were 90% already there! but they gave up!! Honda's problem has never been their engineers or manufacturing, its their catatonic leadership.

25 October 2015
Honda used to make some great cars for the enthusiast,and for those that wanted comfort style and reliability, but not German, not just the Civic, what happened to the Accord Type-R, the Prelude, the Accord Coupe, the Legend, they lost their way when they decided that the greyhaired Jazz driver was more important.

25 October 2015
Why can't Honda just cut their losses and bring their Asian or American cars over. They can't do worse than they are doing now. That will put a dent in their R&D expenditure they can then book as profit. Why bother putting in half assed efforts to Europeanise cars that won't sell in big numbers anyway?

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