Saturday, January 15, 2011

Latest rumours for Malaysia

Just back from the annual Honda Media gathering event. Some interesting news and rumours. In the presentation delivered in conjunction with the CEO's speech, amongst the current models shown, very briefly the CR-Z also flashed on the screen.

In last year's event, it was the Freed which was very briefly shown. Then I knew Honda Malaysia intended to launch it (the Freed) last year which turns out to be true. So following 'history', the photo of the CR-Z shown this year means Honda Malaysia is working on bringing the CR-Z here. It is most logical and somewhat unavoidable actually, as eventhough the FD2 Civic Type-R is still officially on sale, it was 'NOS', meaning whatever is left of the unsold units Honda Malaysia brought in last year before production was actually stopped in October. So the FD2R will very quickly dissapear from the local line-up. This means a 'sporty model' is needed to replace the FD2R and the only model which meets this criteria in any form today is the CR-Z.

The original plan was to actually launch it in 2012, mainly due to the inability of the Japan factory to meet demands: i.e. it is true that for the CR-Z, demand outstrips supply. But because of the extra-ordinary incentive offered by the Malaysian government (where practically all taxes are dropped for hybrid cars) and which will only last till the end of this year, just like the Insight, there is now a renewed sense of urgency to get approval to launch the CR-Z in Malaysia. Again, much depends on the ability of the Japan factory to meet the demand.

Also highlighted in the presentation was that to-date, almost 1,500 Insights have been officially sold. I.e. confirmed bookings have been received for 1,500 units but of course, none has been delivered so far as stocks is still on the way over here. The intention by Honda Malaysia is to start delivery of the first units by next month, a few weeks ahead of original schedule.

Some bad news. Regardless of whether there will be a 9Gen Civic Type-R, Malaysia will not be able to get it anymore. It seems that the FD2R was a very special exception, given because Honda's brand image needs an urgent boost here in Malaysia. So the FD2R was approved for sale here. My understanding is several countries in Asia and outside have tried to get approval as well, and all have been rejected. This must have caused some amount of friction internally as questions must have obviously been asked why a small country like Malaysia can get approval but not the larger countries which can commit to a much larger sales target. Well, that puts paid to whatever chances Malaysia have got for the 9Gen CTR. This also means that whoever owns an FD2R, he or she should really treasure it because it is indeed a very unique, once a lifetime opportunity to own such a gem.

Finally, it was officially confirmed that the 9Gen Civic for Asia (including Japan) has been delayed. Until when, I am not at a liberty to tell. But rumours that the delay was because the current outgoing 8Gen is such a well balanced package that Honda is having a hard time ensuring the 9Gen will meet high expectations, is indeed true. As the sedan market in Japan has been shrinking steadily, so the Civic is no longer that critical a model that it used to be (which is sad because of all models, the Civic is considered the heart and soul of Honda). So a delayed launch is acceptable now. And this means a delay for Asia as well.

The 9Gen concept Civic for the U.S. and Canada has already been shown in Detroit and it will actually be launched in a couple of months time, followed closely by the Civic Hybrid a few months later. For Asia, it seems that it is still some time away.

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