New Civic Reflects Honda’s Commitment to Thailand

The new Civic will compete in Thailand’s C-segment, where Honda and other big OEMs increasingly are being challenged not only by lower-volume entrants but also by the rapidly growing compact-CUV segment.

Edd Ellison, Correspondent

March 18, 2016

4 Min Read
New Civic targeted at export markets as well as Thailand
New Civic targeted at export markets as well as Thailand.

Honda reaffirms Thailand’s strategic importance as it makes the Southeast Asian country the first market outside North America to offer the 10th-generation Civic for sale.

The new sedan will raise standards in Thailand’s C-segment, where Honda and other established big OEMs are seeing increased competition not only from more-prestigious, lower-volume entrants but also from the rapidly growing compact-CUV segment.

The Civic is the most important model for Honda globally – 23 million have been built and sold in 170 countries so far – and Thailand is a typical market in that the sedan is a key volume player for the Japanese automaker.

Noriaki Abe, president and CEO of Asian Honda Motor and chief operating officer-Asia and Oceania, oversaw the official launch earlier this month in Bangkok. He links the decision to build the new model at a new plant in Thailand to the automaker’s longterm commitment to the country.

Abe notes the “high potential of the domestic market,” where the Civic always has been among the best sellers in C-segment, and says the country is the “the largest automobile-production base for Honda in the Asia and Oceania region.”

The new factory is located in a special economic zone that enjoys tax privileges in Prachinburi province about 120 miles (200 km) east of Bangkok. Featuring advanced production technology drawn directly from Honda’s groundbreaking Yorii plant in Japan, it not only sets new standards for Thai auto production but also becomes one of its most efficient plants in Asia.

Key production processes include the use of a “Servo Cushion” system on the pressing line; high-speed robots on the welding line which is powered by recycled water; water-borne paint; and so-called cell technology on the assembly line that improves worker ergonomics. There also is greater use of robots to shift heavy items in the factory as well as specialized vehicles to move components around the assembly area.

The plant was announced in February 2013 and construction began four months later. Total investment is 17.2 billion baht ($491 million) and annual production is about 60,000 units. Expansion of the 2.3 million-sq.-ft. (214,000-sq.-m) facility is expected in the future.

“The new factory demonstrates Honda’s commitment made to Thailand as an export base and hub for the world,” Abe says.

Alongside domestic production, which is targeted to rise to 25,000 units by the end of the first year on sale, the plant immediately will start building for export. “The new factory will export the Civic in (complete knocked-down) kits and (completely built-up units),” Abe says. “40,000 units (will be) going to neighboring countries starting in April.”

That should bring the factory up to full capacity by around year-end.

After the Flood

Honda gave some hard consideration to its Thai operations following the devastating floods of 2011, which hit the automaker particularly hard by halting production, but with this new plant the automaker has demonstrated it remains committed to retaining Thailand as a key global production hub. Abe points out that with the new Civic’s export quotas Honda also will be boosting the currently stagnant Thai economy.

“These new exports will make Honda contribute more to Thailand,” he says.

With 460,000 Civics sold to date since its launch here three decades ago, the new model is integral to the local sales operation. It comes hot on the heels of the arrival in showrooms of the BR-V small CUV that launched in January and is expected to build on Honda’s recent success with its two bigger CUVs, the HR-V and CR-V, the latter of which cut into sales of the outgoing Civic sedan.

More eye-catching than previous versions sold here, the new Civic will offer five body colors and new, class-leading safety features.

A new 1.5L turbocharged VTEC engine producing 173 hp and 162 lb.-ft. (220 Nm) of torque follows the rapidly growing trend here toward downsizing to smaller, forced-induction engines. The high-specification Turbo RS version tops the range at TB1,199,000 ($34,200) with the Turbo coming in underneath it at TB1,099,000 ($31,350).

There will also be an E-85-compatible SOHC 1.8L engine making 141 hp and 128 lb.-ft. (174 Nm) of torque. That kicks off the range at TB869,000 ($24,800) with the 1.8 ES variant at TB959,000 ($27,300) slotted below the new 1.5L turbo and will make up more of the export mix.

That pricing places the new Civic near the top of C-segment, where customers generally are cost-conscious. That could be the car’s only roadblock in reaching its sales targets.

About the Author(s)

Edd Ellison

Correspondent, WardsAuto

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