Theme: Japan – The Structure Of Their Product Ranges and An Overview Of Their Pricing

Do you think we do this for fun? Here is the result of two evenings tediously clicking around slow websites, looking at confusingly arranged line-ups. This is what the Japanese brands are selling in the UK and what they charge.

Adieu Accord - image via motorauthority
No more Accords – image: motorauthority

How did I do this? I tried to count the number of distinct models under the category “passenger cars”. I then noted the base price of each. The “Brougham effect” might alter the absolute numbers somewhat but not enough to alter the general, relative nature of the findings. By that I mean if there’s a Nissan Micra Super De Luxe “Montecarlo” model which costs £9,000 more than the base model I won’t have included it.

2016 Honda UK line-up: Honda UK
2016 Honda UK line-up: Honda UK

Honda
A quick glance at the range of passenger cars shows some padding. There are seven vehicles shown but three of them are Civics. The others are the Jazz hatchback and HR-V and CR-V softroaders. The last of them is the NSX. The price range (the NSX is not given a price) is from £13,495 to £30,000. Those are base prices. I went over to Honda’s German site and found nine models. The extra two are also Civic-based: the Civic saloon and the Civic X-edition.

As expected, there was nothing especially different. The Honda range is very limited now the Accord is gone and they have long ago stopped offering the Legend and Prelude. The Stream – that’s long gone too. Price range is from £13,495 to £30,000, (a £16,505 difference) which means a theoretical price spread of £2400 per vehicle. The NSX will alter that when the price is unveiled, note. Won’t matter much.

2016 Mazda UK range of cars: Mazda UK
They are all red. 2016 Mazda UK range of cars: Mazda UK

Mazda
The venerable Hiroshima firm offers six distinctly different cars in their range. It is a very orderly and well-structured range, beginning with the 2 hatchback, 3 hatchback, 6 saloon, CX-3 and CX-5 soft-roaders and the usefully priced and evergreen MX-5. The price range spreads from £12,195 to £23,195. I note that in Germany the 3 is available as a four-door whereas it is not available in the UK in that format.

The Mazda vehicle price range travels £11,000 from the cheapest to most costly. The theoretical price spread is £1830 per vehicle.

2016 Toyota UK range of cars. There are a lot there, aren´t there?: Toyota UK
2016 Toyota UK range of cars. There are a lot there, aren´t there?: Toyota UK

Toyota
Their price range is from £8,000 to £35,000 (Aygo to Land Cruiser). They have eleven clearly different vehicles. Padding out the range are three types of Prius: the standard electric one, a PHEV and a 7-seater. They have the GT-86 sports car and no Camry and no Previa. They’ve been gone since Tony Blair was Prime Minister. As ever, the Germans and the Irish get a four-door Corolla and the British are denied the pleasures of this device.

Toyota’s second in the price range war: £27,000. They have eleven vehicles, meaning a price spread of £2452 per vehicle.

There are a lot there too. Nissan´s UK range includes the Pulsar: Nissan UK
There are a lot there too. Nissan´s UK range includes the Pulsar: Nissan UK

Nissan
Thirteen vehicles cars make up the Nissan fleet of what they call passenger cars and nicely there’s no padding on their website. The price range is from £8,000 (Micra) to £78,545 (the GT-R). The Leaf is an all-electric car, something that Honda and Mazda don´t have. It’s a remarkably diverse range in many ways, and not what I expected. The GT-R and 370Z provide for very different clienteles than do the Leaf and the NV-2000 and eNV-2000. In the context of all that, the much-derided Pulsar makes sense. It’s a normal car. Nissan’s GTR  wins it the the price spread medal: there’s a £70,000 difference between the cheapest and most costly Nissan. That means they are covering the market. If you have 70 grand to spend, Nissan have a car for you. The others don’t.

2016 Subaru product range comprises a lot of similar cars, no?: Subaru UK
2016 Subaru product range comprises a lot of similar cars, no?: Subaru UK

Subaru
Annoyingly their website strings the six (or seven) models across the screen with no relation to price and size which reinforces the impression of a set of very similar cars. Only the BRZ is a different, very different. It’s a sports car with two doors unlike the rest of the range which are essentially various flavours of hatchback: Impreza at £17,500 all the way to the Impreza WRX at £29,000 (maybe that’s a saloon). Annoyingly, the model range and price range are out of kilter. There are six distinct bodyshells, the largest of which is not the one given the highest price. That’s the WRX. Missing from the Subaru range is a car in the supermini category and city car category. At a pinch the Justy, a handy 4×4 supermini ought to be in there. Subaru might want also to consider an MPV. There are families who would appreciate a capable vehicle that was not a SUV or CUV and was easier to manage than Subaru’s estate car variants. Naturally, there’s no saloon in the range.

Subaru’s price points cover a range of £11,500. That is not much different than Mazda’s but Mazda have an entry level car, the 2, in the popular supermini class. Perhaps this is Subaru’s biggest mistake and a Justy really ought to be a part of their model range, even if it’s badge engineered (as Justys have been since the Schmalkaldic War ended). There’a a 4×4 Panda so why can’t Subaru find a competitor for it?

Mitsubishi
These people are simply all over the shop. It’s a range as diverse as the shelves at TK Maxx. I will deal with this another time. Let’s say that if you want a small electric car, a pick-up truck or a massive SUV, then you’ll find something at Mitsubishi. It’s a range made up of the weird gaps between the other sectors. Baffling.

What have we learned then from all this digital tyre kicking? Honda, Subaru and Mazda are missing an Aygo-type car. They are also bad on hybrids, yet Honda did once offer the Civic in saloon form as a hybrid. I have seen these cars and they are very nice looking inside and out.

I am going to have to get over the death of the family saloon. Toyota don’t bother with anything except the Avensis and they are pushing that in estate guise. Subaru has a much larger range than you might expect, as did Nissan but Nissan’s is more diverse in character whereas I get the idea without actually verifying it, that Subaru is deriving a lot of models from one platform. If electric cars ever take off, they are quite exposed.

Honda is the sick man at this party. It’s got a patchy range and is very reliant on the Civic and its CUVs. Yet in the US it is a manufacturer whose Odyssey MPV and Accord saloon are highly rated. Whoever runs Honda UK needs to go and get another line of work and Honda need to consider their weak presence in the UK. The NSX is available saloon and I think it won’t help a range as skewed as Honda’s is right now. 

Of the firms who could do better, Subaru and Honda stand out though Subaru’s position is clearly defined and its customers are a happy bunch. All the manufacturers, bar Nissan, have simply given up on big-ticket cars. We saw what this meant for Ford and Peugeot and here we see it again. The premium marques are occupying price points that are firmly keeping the others out of the medium and large car sector. And that’s where there´s money which is why BMW, Audi and Mercedes do so very well.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

9 thoughts on “Theme: Japan – The Structure Of Their Product Ranges and An Overview Of Their Pricing”

  1. Apart from Toyota and Nissan, most Japanese companies don’t seem to care much about Europe. Subaru, Suzuki and Honda were selling many cars at some point, but it seems they started losing when Huyndai/Kia started winning.

  2. Describing Honda as “the sick man at this party” is an understatement. 132,808 sales in Europe in 2015 (0.93% of the market )- compare this with their best year, 2007 when 311,801 cars were sold. Another comparison is Kia; under 40,000 sold in 1997, but they shifted 383,047 vehicles in Europe last year.

    It would be just about excusable if Honda relied on Japanese production plants – even now, the strength of the Yen is a hindrance – but as well as having Swindon, Honda can – and do – supply from Canada, Mexico, Turkey and China.

    And what’s happened to Infiniti in the UK? 392 registrations in the UK last month, in a record-breaking month when 518,707 vehicles were registered.

    Yet the Sunderland-built Q30 has been available since the start of the year. I only hope that they’re throttling back UK sales in order to supply the more profitable Eurozone markets.

    1. In response to both, it’s perplexing that Honda can crack what’s often called the world’s toughest market, the US. And it’s not as if Honda never worked out how to sell here. Accords and Civics and Jazzes were popular and uncontroversial purchases for years.
      Thanks Robertas for reminding me that Infiniti exist. Also, stupid forgot Lexus and Suzuki. I’ll have to do Part 2, won’t I?

      The second last Accord was a cracking design. I’ve seen them in top spec and they conform to my idea of a great, usefully sized and tastefully designed saloon.

    1. Hi, it’s easily missed because it is not shown on the front page, but in the script under the picture and words of the Mazda 3, it states “Hatchback, Fastback, Sport Black”. It’s the middle option – confusing, though that they call is Fastback. I’d say about 1 in 8 3s that I see on the road in the UK are the Fastback, about the same ratio as A3 saloons to the 5-door.

  3. Nice theme this month.

    Subaru really only have two vehicles, the Impreza and the Legacy. (Forgetting about that underwhelming BRZ – I know I did by the time I got to third gear) Right at the moment, they are different platforms, but the new all-in-one chassis with 41,000 lb-ft/degree stiffness will debut on the new Impreza later this year, then become the Legacy a year later. Don’t even know if the wheelbase will change. That’s over three times stiffer than the old Land Crab and right up there with well, anything out there. Plus it’s ready for EV and hybrid, so forget about “If electric cars ever take off, they are quite exposed.”

    http://blog.caranddriver.com/subaru-global-platform-debuts-will-underpin-all-future-subarus/

    Impreza derivatives are Crosstrek, Forester, WRX and STI. Plus Levorg outside North America.
    Legacy derivative is the Outback. They sell extremely well in the USA, making them bigger than Mazda or VW in unit sales. Sales have tripled since 2009. In Canada, they trail Mazda and VW. Still, ROI at present runs about 11%, so they’re coining it, and have run out of factory capacity which they are even now abuilding. The UK and Euro market are not appealing to them at the moment would be my guess. Apparently, though, despite the spare cash lying around they still seem unwilling to employ actual stylists. Funny outfit.

    I’m on my third in twenty years. Darn things keep on going, and the ones I’ve had have been cheerful if such a trait can be accorded a mechanical “thing”, plus a bit under the radar when you look at my old Legacy Turbo. It thrives on pottering about looking inoffensive then going batshit crazy when you give it a bit of welly. Great old beast.

  4. Like Bill I’m on my third Subaru but in only fifteen rather than twenty years ( Mrs M is on her third Golf in thirty years) and I really don’t understand their attitude to the UK market. In the USA they are highly regarded and have a high brand image, here they are almost invisible. Dealerships have reduced in number, advertising is almost non-existent and no presence in motor sport. I think one of the problems they have, with Honda, is the inability to personalise the vehicle. On my current Forester my choice was limited to colour and transmission. I considered a VW Tiguan and choice of options was, well confusing.

    I am actually surprised that Subaru continue in the UK market; they sell so few cars compared to anywhere else. They have a great product but seem unwilling to market it or know how to market it. My dealer told me that one day’s production of Foresters was enough for the UK for a year. Who knows if that’s true but if it is why bother?

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