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.