NZ part of Honda’s plan for hybrid growth
Remember when Honda and Toyota were the only two car companies in New Zealand that offered petrol-electric hybrid cars?
Toyota had the Prius, and Honda had the Civic and the Insight. It was during the early 2000s, and the two companies beavered away at convincing motorists that their hybrids represented the very beginning of a worldwide environmental trend – the electrification of the motor vehicle.
Fast-forward 16 years and the electrification trend in New Zealand is accelerating. Toyota and its luxury offshoot Lexus now offer several hybrid cars, other manufacturers also offer hybrids and plug-in hybrids, others again offer battery electric cars, and there are charging stations popping up all over the country.
But there are no Hondas. The brand is trailing in the wake of all this action, because it now doesn’t offer any hybrids at all in New Zealand.
It’s not actually Honda New Zealand’s fault – but more to do with where our Hondas are sourced from. In Japan, there are hybrid versions of almost every Honda model. But these days we don’t get many of our Hondas from Japan – only the Jazz hatch and theAWDversion of the HRV. All the rest are built in Thailand or England, and none of these export models are offered with hybrid technology.
If you’re a Kiwi motoring journalist visiting Japan as a guest of Honda, the lack of hybrids at home is almost embarrassing. Stuff has just been part of a New Zealand media contingent in the country with journalists from other parts of Asia and Oceania, the whole point of the visit to find out all about Honda’s latest efforts in the development of environmental technology and product that aim to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels.
While there, we found out that Honda’s cumulative sales of hybrid vehicles is now approaching 2.5 million vehicles, and that hybrids now account for more than 30 per cent of all Honda sales on the Japanese domestic market.
This was underlined during a visit to Honda headquarters in downtown Tokyo, where every vehicle on display both outside the building and in the atrium inside, was a hybrid. But in New Zealand – nothing. However, this is almost certain to change for the better. Honda Motor Company’s president and CEO Takahiro Hachigo has announced a plan for two-thirds of Honda’s global sales to be electrified by 2030, with the central focus being on hybrids – particularly a newly developed high-efficiency plug-in hybrid system that will be unique to Honda.
For Honda to achieve that aim, it is obvious that sales of electrified vehicles will need to extend beyond the Japanese domestic market, and that will almost certainly include New Zealand.
And what a choice – not only was a hybrid version of the new CR-V on display at the Tokyo Motor Show, but during a visit to the brand’s Twin Ring Motegi motorsport facility we were able to drive a Fit (Jazz in NZ) hybrid, and on display outside Honda HQ were various hybrid models including a Vezel (HRV in NZ), Odyssey and Accord.
The Kiwi media contingent to Japan was accompanied by Honda NZ managing director Nobuya Sonoda and general manager of marketing Nadine Bell, and both said it was far too early to shed any light on what hybrids we might get.
The only hybrid that Honda New Zealand is currently actively trying to get is the new 300kmhplus NSX supercar, which combines a 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 engine with three electric motors. But that Honda will cost close to $400,000, so very few people will get to experience the car.
And as for the rest of us? Well, there’s all sorts of opportunity there – particularly once Honda Motor Company has moved through the process of making hybrids available for export markets.
Even now there’s potential for Honda to offer electrified versions of every model currently on sale here. Think about that: An exclusively electrified vehicle fleet. Now wouldn’t that be a special way for Honda to return to the hybrid scene in New Zealand?
A hybrid badge displayed on a Honda vehicle. That’s common in Japan – but not in New Zealand.