Saturday, October 29, 2011

Thoughts regarding the Honda CR-Z in Malaysia/ASEAN

With the launch of the Honda CR-Z now almost upon us here in Malaysia, my thoughts have been wondering along the lines of considering what kind of buyers would be interested in this rather unique sporty coupe and what would be the cars they will be cross-shopping against.

First of all, thanks to the dominance of the U.S. on the internet, the widely held assumption is that the CR-Z is a 2-seater coupe. This is most probably not the case for our units here. The Honda CR-Z launched here will be imported CBU from Japan, as is all CR-Zs sold across the world. But it will be a RHD version and it will most probably be a 2+2, i.e. the ability to seat 4, or maybe even 5 persons (at a rather tight squeeze for the back passengers). The unit on display at the KLIMS last year was a 2+2, though perhaps not many people will have noticed since it wasn't easily accessible. 

Those who have booked the CR-Z (as I understand, quite a few already) will probably know and those who are interested should also be aware of this. It is like the case of the original CR-X, on which the CR-Z is supposedly the spiritual successor (thought subjected to some controversy). The CR-X was a 2-seater in the U.S. and a 2+2 everywhere else.

Price-wise, understandably Honda Malaysia cannot give me any indications at all. But if we use the JDM pricing, where the Insight starts at around 2 million yen while the CR-Z starts at 2.2 to 2.3 million yen, then a 'purata' estimation suggests that it should be around 15 to 20% higher in price. Given that the Insight starts at around RM100k, that suggests maybe a best price of around RM120k ? Highly unlikely I would think, due to the logistical and economical reasons. 

The biggest problem with a niche model like the CR-Z is precisely that it is 'niche'. Honda Malaysia has been very 'brave' for insisting that they must have a niche model in its line-up while many countries here in ASEAN doesn't even bother. A niche model, is by definition very low in sales volume. While models like even the Freed or Jazz may be measured in terms of sales volumes of hundreds or even thousands a month, the FD2 Civic Type-R last time for e.g. was measured in terms of 60 units a year in sales volume, i.e. single-digit sales figure per month. Anyone who knows how it is like to do business will know that this kind of (extremely low) sales volume drives costs of sales up tremendously. The issue is with warranty, maintenance of spare parts inventory, recovery of expenses incurred in sales (advertisement, P.R. cost, etc), and all sorts of other things. As a consumer, it is very easy for us to state that we are not bothered and that it is the responsibility of the manufacturer, but in the end, every car maker exists to make a profit. They need profit to continue to even exist. 

Given this, my own personal estimate is that there is a chance CR-Z will be launched at a selling price above RM130k, perhaps between the price of the Civic 2.0l and the most basic Accord variant. 

But this is only one part of the picture. 

My personal opinion, based on my own opinions of the Malaysian car marketplace is that selling the CR-Z, given its current specification, at above RM130k is going to be a certain recipe for disaster, effectively ensuring the CR-Z will never sell here. 

So in the end, my personal hope is that Honda Malaysia will launch the CR-Z, very soon, at a selling price closer to that of the Civic 2.0l. Who knows, maybe they might pull off another 'FD2R' with the CR-Z and go below RM130k, cheaper than the Civic 2.0l ? I feel this is not very likely but I thought the same for the FD2R last time too so no matter how unlikely it may be, I think there is always hope !

I will continue with more thoughts in follow-up posts over the next few days.


FiSH-Chan said...

As we probably know the hatches or 2 seaters will always be more expensive (why??) than the sedan versions.

I am hoping Honda will break this 'tradition' and squeak the price just above the Insight. (11x K?)

There will always be people who would choose 4 doors over 2 doors, and majority of people will still go for the 4 door Insight. I think price should be similar, let people work out whether they need 2 or 4 doors (practicality or sport).

But I dunno, that's why I don't work at Honda doing working the numbers on these things.

podracer said...

Yup, I agree. Sub 11x-ish would be just right, any higher Honda would simply loose volume, *fast*, right at the begining. Just like the current Thai Jazz which price-wise a very poor value compared to the Insight. A real FitRS-equivalent would make sense, not a slap-on-bumpers lookalike. Bad bad bad.

I wonder if Honda will bring in CVTs and how tight is tight at the back for us asians? My kind of market is for something both Fun and Practical. The CR-Z might lack in the second dept but 1.5L VTEC 12/16 with IMA torque? Yes, yes, yes!

But take it for what it is, an unsimple nifty sport-y car, no more, and definitely *not* a sports car. Anyone thinking this in terms of 2L turbo, GTI or type-R would be in for a huge dissapointment. Come on Honda, take advantage of the tax-exemption and bring us enthuasiasts again something price-wise a real bargain and value! Thanks.

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