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Honda Ė another missed opportunity?
Peter Schmidt | Editor

Published: Wed, 08th July 2015 13:24:00 GMT

Honda HR-V red launch July 2015 Portugal

Open quote signYou can put a trendy new toy into a store, but in a shop already stocked to the rafters with more wallet-friendly high-fashion branded toys of the same type, you shouldnít be surprised if most toy-shopping mums will give your markedly pricier product a miss. 

Hondaís problem? In the last seven years, its market share in West Europeís cut-throat car market has halved. 

Thatís a headlong plunge form a record 1.9 per cent as recently as 2007 to a 37-year low of just 0.9 per cent so far this year. 

It now ranks among the continentís most persistent losers. 

Adding insult to injury, today Honda Europe appears in danger of not catching the lifeline tossed its way.

The irony is that a new product launched this minute in Portugal - bang on the money with current car buying trends and capable of returning Hondaís long-sinking European car sales fortunes safely back to terra firma - now looks unlikely to keep the fast-tiring swimmer above the water line. 

The European version of Hondaís well turned out HR-V, which received rave reviews when first launched in domestic Japan where it is sold as the Vezel, is about to join the regionís hottest sub-sector. 

In todayís fast recovering European car market, where a forever growing line up of oh-so-trendy SUV-Crossovers from Porsche, BMW, Land Rover or Audi are just the type of vehicle to be seen in, Joe Public now feels compelled to jump on the same fast speeding bandwagon. 

There is one crucial difference though. 

These dedicated followers of fashion, who wouldnít be seen dead without anything other than an iPhone 6, live a lifestyle driven mainly by big egos and small wallets. 

Yes, they may be aspiring to a Porsche Cayenne, or at least a super fashionable Land Rover Evoque. But in the cold light of day, the very best their tight financial budgets will stretch to is one of those smaller same concept Crossovers that many of their friends already drive, which cost a mere fraction of a top-end Cayenne or even an Evoque.

Thatís a flourishing niche presently occupied by Nissanís pioneering Juke, followed only comparatively recently by the likes of the Renault Captur and GMís equally hot selling Opel Mokka for instance. 

Unlike Land Roverís Evoque, with prices starting just a touch under £30,000, UK range-entry prices for Renaultís similar lifestyle Captur currently start at half that level. Before discounts, thatís £14,295 and £16,474 for Opel-Vauxhallís Mokka. 

No wonder then that these new compact Crossovers, all based on the pocket-size underpinnings of cheap and cheerful Small-Sector mainstream cars, have all hit the ground running. 

By a stroke of good luck, Honda too had just such a product for these beckoning sales opportunities. 

Thatís its Jazz-based Vezel. 

On sale in Japan for just over a year, it was quickly and cheaply Europeanised to join Europeís still raging compact Crossover party, renamed HR-V. 

But what looked likely to turn into a potential safe path out of the morass, chiefly a torrent of HR-V customer orders, now looks likely to turn into a conceivable flop. 

Despite its Small-Sector origins, and a short class-typical wheelbase of 2,610mm, the new HR-V is priced dangerously above todayís sector norm. 

UK prices trumpeted to the world only yesterday, start just £5 short of the £18,000 mark. 

Raising eyebrows, and given that this is £3,700 higher than the UKís range-entry price for Renaultís same concept Captur, it is difficult to image that its UK debut will trigger a buyer rush to Honda showrooms. 

Amazing, that anyone, in this day and age of ultra sharp marketing professionalism, can get it so wrong. 

So whatís to be done? 

A good look at Nissan Europeís pricing rule book would be a good start
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