Honda Launching China-Only Brand

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
honda launching china only brand

The extent to which Honda has lost its mojo has been a hot topic in these pages of late. Though the big H has stumbled with Acura, hybrids, design and other crucial areas, one major positive seems to persist: the strength of the Honda name. Which is why it’s so strange to read Bloomberg report that Honda will launch a new brand in China next year. The new brand, named Li Nian meaning “ideal” or “spirit”, will be used for Honda’s new sub-Fit small car, designed to take advantage of China’s reduced tax on engines smaller than 1.6 liters.

Li Nian is the first new brand introduced by a Chinese joint venture, as Li Nian vehicles will be built by Honda’s JV with Guangzhou Auto. Honda has no plans to export Li Nian vehicles due to profit-sharing with Guangzhou and possible cannibalization of Honda-brand vehicles. Though Honda sees the brand’s vehicles as the key to making inroads on China’s expanding rural markets, it offers no clues as to why a new brand name has been chosen. After all, if scooters can be sold with great success under the Honda name, why not small, low-cost cars?

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  • HerrKaLeun HerrKaLeun on Jan 21, 2010

    if they made nice looking and practical Hondas they didn't need Acura or even a newer brand. the Fit is good... class leader. I'd sell my arm for a Euro-Honda Accord Wagon. the rest is less than exciting, even for gas-misers.

    • See 1 previous
    • Paradigm_shift Paradigm_shift on Jan 21, 2010

      How cynical is Honda when they sell a great looking Accord Tourer elsewhere, and try to shove that monstrosity Crosstour down our throats here...

  • Stuki Stuki on Jan 21, 2010

    Look at it the other way. Honda's partners have too much say in this venture for Honda to risk lending the venture their name. If the Chinese involved wants the prestige of that H on the hood, they'd have to give the mother ship better terms. Now, if the whole thing blows up, at least the Honda brand is not, to the same degree, sullied across the largest market in the world.

  • Stewart Dean Stewart Dean on Jan 21, 2010

    1.6 liters is small? When I wuz a kid, that was a good sized motor in an import. To say nothing of my 1.3 liter Mini. I wonder if America will ever embrace minimax.....

    • Lumbergh21 Lumbergh21 on Jan 21, 2010

      Seems to me that 1.3L was the size of the rotary engine in my '87 Rx-7. that didn't keep it from being a fun car to drive.

  • Tparkit Tparkit on Jan 22, 2010

    Why re-brand? To avoid confusion. This works in the up direction (Acura) as well as down (Li Nian). Since Honda wants to separate Li Nian from the main brand, it's reasonable to expect there will be departures in equipment, trim, and perhaps also quality. For instance, the Li Nian may not come with side curtain air bags standard - something Honda began years ago to put in every vehicle it builds. We often think of China's market in terms of units sold, but the fact is that many of these cars are minimalist econoboxes. If Honda thinks it can make money in that market, well, so be it. I'd expect the Li Nian to be exported to other developing countries too. If we slide far enough into the Greatest Depression, we might get versions of the Li Nian too.