Will 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid be Built in Thailand?

2006 Honda Civic Hybrid, Small

According to an article in today's Bangkok Post, Honda may be considering building the new 2006 Civic Hybrid here in Thailand. The article (see below) suggests that a Civic Hybrid built in Thailand would benefit from 30% excise rates, rather than the 80% applied to the current Hybrid. And suggests that the price would be around 1.5 million baht as a result.

My maths tells me that it should be around 1.3 million if you simply apply the new excise rate, so perhaps the new Civic will cost more to begin with. 1.3, 1.5 ... it probably makes no difference anyway. Anything over 1 million baht and Thai buyers will start looking at Fortuners, Accords and Camrys in preference. If this car could be priced at or below 1 million, and marketed as at the high end of the mid-sized market, competing with 1.8 liter and even 2.0 liter models, then it might stand a chance of selling in some numbers.

From the comments made by Mr. Satoshi Toshida, it seems that Honda are not that hopeful for a successful campaign in Thailand. But that would not put them off building here and exporting to countries where there is more interest in Hybrid technology. If fuel prices got sufficiently high to force people to think about fuel consumption figures before thinking about power, performance, and size we might see some interest in Hybrid and alternative fuels here. But as prices of fuel start to creep back down 40 satang every few days, we can be sure that attention will remain squarely on the biggest vehicle that 60 installments can buy.

Thai-built Civic Hybrid under study (Source: Bangkok Post)

Thailand could be among the first countries outside Japan and the US to build the Civic Hybrid featuring an ultra-efficient petrol/electric powertrain, according to a top executive of Honda Motor (Japan). Although the plan is not finalised yet, senior managing director Satoshi Toshida noted that tax incentives in Thailand for vehicles powered by hybrid engines have prompted Honda to entertain such notions.

"We have several plants outside Asia and we are currently looking into this matter [of building the Civic Hybrid outside of Japan],'' stressed Toshida, also big boss of Asian Honda Motor.

A hybrid version of the seventh-generation Civic has gone on sale in Thailand, but at a hefty price of 1.8 million baht. But since the Excise Department has created a new 10% levy for such vehicles as of last year, the price of the new eighth-gen version could fall. Instead of importing it in completely built-up form and face 80% customs tax, the Civic Hybrid could face a lower 30% applied on completely knocked-down kits like the Civic with regular petrol engines.

Toshida said there must be sufficient demand for the Civic Hybrid for it to be made in the country. However, he was quick to note that Singapore and Australia _ two countries that Thailand has the potential to export the cars _ have shown strong interest in it.

Toshida did not go into detail about pricing, but one Honda insider noted that it could be under 1.5 million baht in CKD form. Even though the Civic Hybrid faces lower tax than the normal Civics, the technology is still expensive.

"Costing under 1.5 million baht [for the Civic Hybrid] sounds okay. But we can't mention the 1.3-litre motor to the average Thai for that price. We'll have to just push for the Hybrid nameplate,'' said the source.