Business

Honda hopes compact wagon debut snaps slide

by Kaho Shimizu

Honda Motor Co. said Thursday it will start selling its first compact station wagon this week.

The Airwave features a so-called sky roof that measures 1.1 meters × 77 cm, a large luggage capacity of 473 liters and is powered by a 1.5-liter engine.

With the launch of the new compact, Honda hopes to boost domestic sales, which have seen year-on-year declines for three straight months since January.

Honda President Takeo Fukui said the domestic compact wagon market is expected to grow beyond the current 110,000 vehicles a year, given that the market size as a whole stands at 300,000 units.

“With the launch of the Airwave, we hope to stimulate the market,” he told a news conference.

The sunroof has an electric sunshade that opens and closes in three stages. The roof itself does not open.

“We discussed whether the glass roof should open and close, and concluded that even if it doesn’t open, it can provide an open-air feeling,” said Satoshi Dobashi, a senior managing director for the domestic market.

Although not many vehicle models have sunroofs in Japan, Honda said they are gaining in popularity in Europe. It believes sunroofs will also catch on in Japan.

“I think we can appeal to customers,” as the versions with a sky roof cost 100,000 yen more than those without, Dobashi said.

Fukui blamed Honda’s declining domestic sales volume on the release last year of new models that were mainly confined to the luxury category, including the Elysion minivan and the Legend sports sedan.

This year, Honda is focusing more on cheaper models.

Honda is scheduled to launch a remodeled Step Wagon and Civic series this year, Fukui said. Honda hopes to boost domestic sales volume with these models, he said.

The Airwave is priced between 1.50 million yen and 1.95 million yen. Target customers are mainly people in their 20s and 30s. The monthly sales target is 4,000 units, of which more than half are expected to have the sunroof option.