Honda picks Thailand as Asia's launching pad for all-new SUV

BANGKOK, NNA - Japan's Honda Motor Co. is introducing the new Honda CR-V sport utility vehicle in Thailand for the first time in Asia, signaling its strong commitment to a strategically vital country as an export base and leading market.

By unveiling the fifth generation of the CR-V, a seven-seater SUV with 1.6 diesel and 2.4 gasoline engines, Honda is beefing up its SUV portfolio in the Thai market in a bid to sell a total of 120,000 vehicles this year for a gain of 12 percent from a year ago, Honda Automobile (Thailand) Co. says. The CR-V ranges in price from 1.39 million baht to 1.69 million baht ($40,350 to $49,000).

The new Honda CR-V, manufactured at Honda plants in Ayutthaya and Prachinburi provinces, is making its Asian debut after hitting the U.S. and Canadian markets.

"Thailand is one of Honda's strategic countries as our biggest automobile and parts export base and a market for Honda in the Asia and Oceania region," explains Noriaki Abe, Honda's chief operating officer of regional operations.

Honda's Thai arm says it hopes to sell 10,000 units of the new CR-V locally this year while exporting 75,000 other units globally.

Natt Patipanthada, Honda Automobile's marketing general manager, noted that the Japanese firm leads the Southeast Asian country's SUV market with a share of over 60 percent thanks to a lineup of three models -- HR-V, BR-V and CR-V.

SUV sales in Thailand are projected to rise to 55,000 units this year, up 15 percent from 48,000 units last year. SUVs currently account for 14 percent to 15 percent of the passenger car market, a huge leap from 6 percent to 8 percent three years ago.

In addition to the CR-V, Honda has launched the fourth-generation Honda City and all-new Honda Civic hatchback since the start of this year with annual sales targets of 36,000 units and 3,500 units, respectively.

The automaker sold 17,573 vehicles in the first two months of this year, grabbing a 14 percent share of the overall Thai market, according to local data. (NNA/Kyodo)