There is a strong possibility that Honda's FR-V, a brand-new MPV that drew much attention at the recent Auto Africa show, will be introduced on the SA market next year, CARtoday.com learnt on Thursday. But what other models are in the pipeline?

There is a strong possibility that Honda's FR-V, a brand-new MPV that drew much attention at the recent Auto Africa show, will be introduced on the SA market next year, CARtoday.com learnt on Thursday.


Speaking at the local launch of the facelifted CR-V and ATV quad bikes, Honda SA spokesman John Laurence said that there was a strong possibility that the FR-V seven-seater would be introduced to the South African market around May or June next year.


Earlier, Honda SA managing director Masahiro Matsushita said that the South African subsidiary of the Japanese engine giant was proud of having finished first in J.D. Power's inaugural Initial Quality Study and fourth in the US company's more recent APEAL survey. Those accomplishments, in conjunction with the establishment of 27 Honda dealerships following an investment of R300 million, "had laid the foundation for sustained growth" and enlarging the footprint of the Honda brand on the South African market.


But what was Honda SA's real-world target for 2005 and what strategy would the company follow to achieve the goal? Laurence said: "Our ideal would be to reach or exceed sales of 5 000 units a year... if we achieved that, Honda SA would rank as one of the more noteworthy subsidiaries of the mother company, not least in Africa".


Naamsa figures show that Honda SA had reported 4 006 sales for the year by the end of November, most of which consisted of the recently facelifted Jazz range, and Laurence said that demand currently outstripped supply for the Japanese light car model.


However, Honda SA was considering strategies to achieve greater sales success with the Civic models and in particular the highly-rated, yet not-so-popular Accord range. According to Laurence, Honda Motor in Japan has offered to supply its South African subsidiary with its fourth-generation flagship luxury performance saloon, the Legend. The Legend recently received the Japan Car of the Year 2004-2005 and Most Advanced Technology Awards conferred by the Japanese C.o.T.Y. executive committee.


The Legend is fitted with Honda’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system (SH-AWD) and driver support technologies such as the Intelligent Night Vision System, which detects pedestrians during night-time driving and provides visual and audio cautions to help prevent accidents. However, the introduction of the Legend would depend on local demand, and as the Accord had not established a large support base in South Africa, the Legend was not likely to reach the local market very soon.


However, the FR-V (Flexible Recreational Vehicle), which has two rows of three seats, is likely to be launched next year in 110 kW 2,0-litre and 92 kW 1,7-litre petrol-engined derivatives.


The FR-V is based on the CR-V's platform, but has a completely new floor pressing, to provide both a flat cabin floor and the wider track necessitated by the three-abreast seating. The two centre seats can be moved back and forth relative to the chairs flanking them, and both fold flat to form a table, while part of the forward seat's cushion hinges to reveal a stowage box and a slide-out drawer below.


The backrests of all six seats recline, and the centre front seat and outer rears have Isofix child seat mounts. The rear-seat backrests fold down to form a flat load deck, but the seats are not removable. However, the advantage of the FR-V's two rows of accommodation is that the vehicle offers increased boot space over MPVs with three rows of seats. Will the FR-V encroach on the CR-V's target market? Not necessarily, says Honda SA's divisional manager for passenger cars, Graham Eagle. He says the company found that the public was quite positive about MPV when it was shown at NASREC.


It has been suggested that Honda SA's product lineup suffers due to a lack of diesel derivatives. In Europe, the Accord is offered with a 2,2-litre diesel engine (103kW at 4 000 r/min and peak torque of 340 N.m at 2 000 r/min) with two-stage fuel injection, a so-called "second order" balancer shaft, an acoustic engine cover, offset cylinders, a pendulum engine-mount system, and a lower-than-usual compression ratio resulting from the use of an optimised combustion chamber.


"Honda Motor is concerned about possible warranty issues and will supply diesel-engined models to our market as soon as it is satisfied with the sulphur-level of local diesel and the widespread availability of the fuel," Eagle said. "Honda SA appreciates the efforts by South African fuel producers to improve the quality of local diesel and will launch diesel versions of its products as soon as circumstances permit us".