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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.