f you look at the Civic sedan Honda offers in America and look longingly at the hatchback version it sells in Europe, we’ve got good news. The latest word has it that the Japanese automaker will start offering the Euro-spec hatch in North America. The reason, however, may surprise you.
According to Nikkei Asian Review, Honda wants to start selling the Civic hatchback in America less because it thinks that’s the model Americans want, and more because it has excess capacity at its plant in the UK. Bringing it to the US would also give Honda an entry against the Volkswagen Golf and other competitors.
Honda’s plant in Swindon, England, is its sole assembly location in Europe, where the company’s market share has dropped to a reported one percent. That doesn’t mean Honda is giving up on the European market and its strong currencies, but with models like the HR-V to be manufactured in Mexico and the new Fit/Jazz to be imported from Japan, the Swindon plant doesn’t have enough vehicles to produce to make use of its annual capacity of 250,000 vehicles. Producing 30,000-40,000 Civic hatchbacks each year for North America would help pick up some of the slack, but not all of it.
It would also only represent a small fraction of the number of Civic sedans Honda moves here. Last year Honda sold over 325,000 Civics in America and over 336,000 the year before, making the Civic its second- or third-most popular model here after the Accord and closely positioned with the CR-V crossover. The reported number of Civic hatchbacks it would sell here wouldn’t even keep up with the smaller Fit, but would far overshadow the CR-Z hybrid hatchback.
The bigger question that performance enthusiasts will be asking is: What does this mean for the prospects of getting the new Type R hot hatch over here? Revealed in production form at the Geneva show earlier this month, the new Civic Type R is based on the European hatchback in question. Prior to the emergence of this report, the official line was that we wouldn’t get the new performance model because its bodystyle isn’t offered here altogether, and that our version would more likely be based on the sedan. If the five-door model makes its way here, though, we can’t help but wonder if the Type R might not follow close behind.
Reached for comment, Honda’s US office didn’t have anything official to add, but we’ll be watching this development closely to see how it plays out.