If you’re clever, there is a lot of money to be made in the second tier of global car sales. And Honda Motor is exceedingly clever; it doesn’t need to be as large as Volkswagen AG, TMC, GM, the R-N-M Alliance, Stellantis, HMG and Ford. With the odd exception, the company just makes very good decisions year-in, year-out and vast profits continue.
Honda doesn’t get everything right and some would say that Acura is a serial under-achiever but that’s a discussion for another, forthcoming feature.
This report is all about the Honda brand, showing how the company (mostly) has an astonishing consistency when it comes to finding and aggressively maintaining high-profit opportunities.
Unlike the big global brands, Honda’s key models are in selected vehicle segments: a Volkswagen- or Toyota-like blanket coverage approach is not how the things are done. And it works. Can it keep working as many parts of the world shift to EVs though?
The N-Box is Japan’s best selling mini-vehicle. Were it not for the new Yaris and Yaris Cross being illogically categorised as a single model, the tiny Honda would be the country’s number one overall.
The current generation of this 660 cc hatchback was Japan’s most popular vehicle in 2018, 2019 and 2020. A new N-Box is due to be launched there towards the end of 2022.
A hybrid will join the latest Civic range but at the moment, Europe is the only confirmed region for this powertrain, which will be standard there. For reasons unknown, the Civic e:HEV will not reach LHD and RDH European markets until “autumn 2022” HME stated in June. Honda Motor Europe has hinted that a Civic PHEV might also be offered.
The same 1.5-litre plus two motors powertrain which powers the Jazz e:HEV should feature for the hybrid. As with the HR-V e:HEV, it may have its own (i.e. higher) power output though.
The tenth generation Accord sedan, announced to the media in July 2017, went on sale first in the US, Mexico and Canada two months later for those countries’ 2018 model year.
In North America, turbocharged 192 hp 1.5- and 252 hp 2.0-litre gasoline engines are available. A CVT is standard for the 1.5 and a ten-speed torque converter automatic for the 2.0-litre. There was a new powertrain for the Hybrid too.
US production of the latest Accord commenced in September 2017. While there had been a manual transmission, this was dropped at the end of the 2020 model year. The engine line-up wasn’t changed when the facelifted Accord was announced in October 2020.
The Guangqi Honda joint venture will commence production of the eleventh generation Accord (codename: 2QD) either at the same time as American Honda’s Marsyville plant or soon after. That should take place in September 2022. Whereas once the US was well ahead of any other country, China now vies with America for the title of the Accord’s number one market.
SUVs & Crossovers
The next generation BR-V (code: DG3) will be revealed in August, which is far sooner than had previously been expected. That’s due to the surprise debut of a concept called N7X which was revealed in Indonesia in early May.
The model name is by no means guaranteed to be retained, particularly if Honda intends to offer this low-cost vehicle in the Indian market. The existing BR-V did not succeed there and was dropped.
The ‘Elevate‘ name isn’t yet confirmed but a special SUV for the Indian market is also being worked on. The code is said to be 31XA and the platform the same as that of the City hatchback. Sources indicate that both petrol and diesel 1.5-litre engines for this circa 4.3 m long vehicle will be offered. See PLDB link below for launch timing.
The latest HR-V (code: 2ZY) was revealed online by Honda Motor Europe (HME) in February but won’t become available in that region until year-end. Sales in Japan, the first market, have already begun. The Vezel name is retained in the company’s home market and there, both 1.5-litre petrol and hybrid powertrains are available. See link to PLDB below for details of the Vezel e:HEV.
HME stated in January that it would only offer this small crossover with a petrol-electric powertrain. During the same month, American Honda announced that its replacement for the HR-V would differ from the vehicle for Japan and Europe. That’s expected to mean more rugged styling.
As with the outgoing model, the new one will also be built in China by both of the company’s partners. There will therefore be direct replacements for the Vezel, manufactured by the Guangqi Honda joint venture, and the X-RV, which is made by Dongfeng Honda. Thanks to their combined success, the PRC is easily this small SUV’s number one market.
So as to keep its other main joint venture partner happy, Honda added the Breeze in August 2019. This is a CR-V with some styling changes and it is manufactured by Guangqi Honda, whereas the CR-V for the Chinese market is built by Dongfeng Honda.
The Breeze PHEV premiered at the Shanghai motor show in April, going on sale immediately. As the original (i.e. non-PHEV) Breeze dates to 2016, a new model will likely land in 2022 or 2023.
Staying with China, the CR-V Sport Hybrid e+ is a new model which has been built in Wuhan since Q1 of this year. This plug-in hybrid was a world premiere for the Dongfeng Honda JV at the Beijing motor show in September 2020. Production is likely to last for fewer than two years due to the age of the basic vehicle.
Honda is extremely cautious about leaping into electric cars. That’s understandable when the sheer number of ICE cars, light trucks, motorcycles and power products that the company produces every year is considered. That’s why in China there are only a few Honda EVs, while for the US market, an OEM supply deal has been negotiated with General Motors.
Eighteen months ago, GM said it had been commissioned to produce two electric vehicles for its Japanese rival by mid-decade. One will be a Honda called Prologue and the other an Acura.
An insider has since revealed that the Honda SUV will be built in Mexico from late 2023. It isn’t yet known which of the two plants at GM’s Ramos Arizpe manufacturing complex will be the one to make it plus certain related General Motors vehicles.
Production of self-developed electric Hondas in North America will eventually happen but probably not until perhaps 2025 or 2026.
Unlike the Prologue, we don’t yet know the name of an electric alternative for China. Such a vehicle was previewed by the SUV e:concept at the Beijing motor show in September 2020. Timing for the production model’s launch isn’t yet clear but it could happen as soon as a few months’ time although 2022 seems more likely.
One or two size segments down, there will also be at least one electric version of the new HR-V/Vezel/X-RV for China. Looking very much like those triplets, at least one production model based on the Honda SUV e:prototype from April 2021’s Shanghai motor show (see pic above) will be launched in China in 2022.
GAC Honda Electric
The Guangqi Honda EA6 is a 4.8 m long electric sedan for the Chinese market. It was revealed at the Guangzhou motor show in late 2020 and went on sale in February. It has GAC’s badges at either end rather than Honda logos. The same applies to the closely related Guangqi Toyota iA5. In fact, both these 4.8 m long sedans are derived from Guangzhou Auto’s own Aion S.
The original went on sale in China during May 2019, six months after its world debut in prototype form at the Guangzhou motor show. GAC NE, the so-called New Energy division of Guangzhou Auto, sees it as a rival for the Tesla Model 3. The car has an NEDC range of 510 km (317 miles) and is claimed to be based on what was at launch a bespoke architecture for electric vehicles.
GAC NE said at the time of the Aion S’ sales release that it was the first vehicle to use a then-new generation of CATL lithium-ion cells, the power density of which was stated as being 170 Wh/kg. The electric axle, meanwhile, is supplied by Nidec. This combines the inverter, gearbox and motor into one 87 kg module.
The Aion S, GAC Toyota iA5 and GAC Honda EA6 have a quoted range of up to 510 km (NEDC) thanks to a battery pack with a capacity of 58.8 kWh. Power and torque are also identical: 135 kW and 300 Nm.
Reports for many other manufacturers’ future models are grouped in the OEM product strategy summaries section of Just Auto.
Future platform intelligence
More detail on past, current and forthcoming models can be found in PLDB, the future vehicles database which is part of GlobalData’s Automotive Intelligence Center. That includes Honda passenger vehicles not mentioned in this report for reasons of space.
Along with Acura Motor, Honda also has a China-specific division: more can be learned about Ciimo in PLDB.