It’s been nearly a decade since Honda introduced a Civic hatchback in North America. But according to reports by the Nikkei, our market is slated to get another Civic hatch, which will also be built in the UK.
The Civic hatchback will be built at Honda’s Swindon, UK plant, and sent to North America starting in 2016. Swindon has capacity for 250,000 cars annually, but has been running at far below that, with one of its two lines, capable of building 100,000 units per year, has been sitting idle.
A plant being underutilized at this level is a major financial drain on an auto maker, and Honda is understandably eager to optimize capacity at Swindon. The Nikkei projects 30,000 to 40,000 Civic hatchbacks will come to North America starting in the summer of 2016. While it won’t enable the plant to operate at full capacity, it still helps.
The move comes as part of an overall restructuring of Honda’s European operations. The Fit, known as the Jazz in Europe, will be exported from Japan, while a number of Honda personnel will be sent back to Japan.
From a product standpoint, the introduction of a 5-door Civic hatchback in North America will allow Honda to better compete with the VW Golf as well as 5-door versions of the Mazda3, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra and other compact cars. The hatchback models often sell at a higher price point, which will help absorb some of the currency costs related to the British pound. But those hoping for a straight import of the recently unveiled Civic Type-R shouldn’t get their hopes up.
The “all-new” Type R is being released at the end of the lifecycle of the current Civic hatch, which was released in 2011. A Honda source told us that the current car is closely related to the Fit, with its torsion beam rear suspension and its smaller footprint compared to the North American Civic. It was never intended to be sent to North America.
Our North American hatch is merely a low volume play to help absorb some capacity at an underutilized plant. The low volume, poor exchange rate with the British Pound and the thin margins in the compact car market make it difficult to rationalize this move any other way. Aside from the fact that a UK-built Civic Type-R would be hideously expensive given those factors, the current Civic hatchback is at the end of its life cycle as well. Maybe we’ll see the next Civic Type-R, but it won’t be the one that was just unveiled.