Because Honda does not sell commercial vehicles or pick-ups (with the exception of the Ridgeline in the USA), it is at a disadvantage against Toyota and Nissan is most markets around the world. However, in the ASEAN region, the brand has a strong appeal to consumers and it has been consistently among the most popular brand.
In Thailand, Honda was again No. 1 in the passenger car segment in 2016 for the second consecutive year. The brand’s market share also rose to 32.7% from 31.5% in 2015, although the annual sales volume for passenger cars decreased by 7.9%.
Commenting on Honda’s achievement, Pitak Pruittisarikorn, Chief Operating Officer of Honda Automobile (Thailand) Co., Ltd, said: “This represents another significant success for Honda and derives from customer trust and strong feedback about products that we launched last year such as Honda BR-V, Honda Civic, Honda Accord and Honda Accord Hybrid.”
In Malaysia too, Honda finished 2016 as the top non-national brand, overtaking not only Toyota but also Proton to be ranked overall second in the somewhat protected market. The year before, it had been third overall. So for a second consecutive year, as in Thailand, Honda was No.1 in the non-national segment in Malaysia.
Honda’s ascent to the No.1 position began in late 2014 and as the months rolled on in 2015, it consistently sold better than Toyota and by the middle of the year, it was already fairly certain that it would be the new leader in the non-national segment.
The popularity of the City in its fourth generation which was introduced in May 2014 contributed greatly to Honda’s success. Then came the HR-V, which was something new from the carmaker and was the second bestselling model in 2015.
It was fortunate that Honda Malaysia had made the strategic decision to build a second line at its plant in Melaka, increasing production capacity, as all the models assembled locally were in great demand. In fact, sales were so good in 2015 that the target set at the beginning of the year – thought to be challenging to hit – was surpassed by 12%!
In 2016, the market environment worsened as the months passed and even the Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA) had to revise its year’s forecast downwards by 70,000 units by the middle of the year. Every brand was affected and although its models were selling well, Honda Malaysia sold 3,072 less vehicles than the year before. However, in contrast to the 3.2% drop in sales volume to 91,820 units, the brand’s market share rose to 15.8% from 14.2%.
Honda’s success and popularity are also the result of its strong brand reputation that has been growing since the first Honda cars were sold in Malaysia in the early 1970s. Perhaps the motorcycles which came earlier – with the iconic Honda Cub as the most popular – had contributed to that reputation but the cars themselves were also well-engineered products.
As an indication of the trust in the brand and the strength of its reputation, there seems to have been no negative effect on sales of new vehicles in spite of the massive recall of older vehicles to have the defective Takata airbag inflator module replaced. Honda, as well as a number of other carmakers, has had to recall hundreds of thousands of vehicles worldwide to replace the module which has broken apart (during airbag inflation) and caused deaths in some cases. [Click here to check if your vehicle is on the recall list]
Unlike other companies which have initiated recalls on the same matter, Honda Malaysia has been very pro-active in the exercise which began in 2011. Although it was not so active in earlier years, it stepped up the effort in 2016 to get owners of affected vehicles (which go as far back as 2001) to bring their vehicles into service centres to have the module changed. Its efforts are commendable and from what we understand, all costs involved are being borne by Honda Malaysia without financial support from Honda Japan, let alone Takata.
But like other Japanese companies, the success does not mean ‘easing off on the accelerator pedal’. In fact, as one executive in Honda Malaysia said, “It means we have to work even harder to do better and to maintain our position!”.
To locate a showroom to view or test-drive Honda vehicles in Malaysia, visit www.honda.com.my.