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.

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