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Honda growth in high gear

Carmaker sees 41-per-cent increase in sales spurred by the launch of new models

The first half of this year has seen a growth of 9.9 per cent in the auto market. But the leap in sales is not in the pickup segment, but the passenger-car segment. With sales of 110,419, the passenger-car segment has grown 32.4 per cent compared with 83,390 units in the same period last year. However, one-tonne pickup sales have seen a drop of 0.7 per cent in the same period.

Cars in the family segment (Honda Accord, Toyota Camry) have seen a growth of 78 per cent, the compact segment (Honda City, Toyota Vios) has seen a growth of 39 per cent, the subcompact segment(Honda Jazz, Toyota Yaris) has grown 20 per cent, and the multi-purpose vehicle or MPV (Toyota Innova, Toyota Avanza) segment has seen a growth of 26 per cent.

Honda automobiles Thailand, which sells only passenger cars and sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) in Thailand, has seen growth of 41 per cent in sales. In the first six months, passenger-car sales for Honda grew from 26,578 units last year to 37,500 units this year. Total sales for the first six months are 43,126 units as opposed to 31,880 units in the same period last year. Honda grabbed market share of 13.5 per cent in the first six months.

The company has seen strong growth, mainly due to the launch of a few new products such as the Accord and the Jazz last year. About 10,000 units of the Jazz were sold within four months of its launch. Sales of the Civic have also been high.

Honda Automobile (Thailand) president Kenji Otaka said: "Custo-mers in Thailand have accepted our new products very well. The Jazz, which is a very value-for-money car, appeals to people of all ages. Growth has been positive in the few months since we launched the vehicle. The decrease in prices of passenger cars due to a decrease in excise on E20-capable vehicles has helped increase sales as well. Sales in the first half of this year were also high because we had to decrease the stock from last year and people were waiting for E20-capable vehicles." Currently, all models sold in the country by Honda are E20 capable, and the company will replace the City passenger car later this year, along with likely minor changes to the Civic. At the same time, the company will complete the construction of its second factory, in Ayudhaya, within the fourth quarter of this year. Production at the new factory will boost Honda's local auto-production capacity from 120,000 units to 240,000. The second factory will also be used for the production of the eco-car.

Honda is also in first place in the customer-satisfaction index survey conducted by JD Power. "Our growth in the customer-satisfaction index has been very dynamic, from eighth place in 2005 to first in 2008," Otaka said. "In 2005, we started dealers- association activities with Thailand divided into six different regions. The focus was to have a joint effort from all the dealers, as one bad dealer in one region will affect other dealers. We then conducted the customer-service recovery seminar, which identified 30 dealers whose customer-satisfaction levels were not showing improvement over time. Special focus was given to improve these dealers."

Honda expects the total auto market to reach 651,000 units this year while the carmaker hopes to sell 80,000 units, a 36-per-cent increase from the 58,525 units that the company sold last year.

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