Why It’s Called N7X and not Honda BR-V?

For a car that’s going to be launched in just 4 months in Indonesia, the N7X is quite an oddity. First, it carries the concept nomenclature, which according to Honda own history means something that is under design study, however the N7X looks production ready. Also, the name most likely a codename for something, as it breaks Honda own naming scheme in the region.

Obviously the media is pointing that this is the second generation BR-V, yet why not just call the N7X a preview for the second generation BR-V?

Well ladies and gents, because the BR-V, is a major and utter comercial failure…

Even without the SUV boom, the market in Indonesia is already into SUV. Like India, we share similar seasonal wet and dry season, and similar infrastructure shenanigans (bad roads, potholes, the many dirt path). So tall cars are always in demand, the Toyota/Daihatsu offerings always cater to these facts. The Avanza/Xenia and Rush/Terios is built to venture all types of road conditions, flood no flood.

The BR-V was Honda answer to the Toyota/Daihatsu Rush/Terios, offering superior efficiency, comfort and driveability. Yet, BR-V best selling year was when it was introduced in 2016, at 38.000+ units, and in 2019, Honda only sells 4.000+ units compared to Toyota/Daihatsu Rush/Terios combined at 80.000+ units.

So why, in a market that demands 7 seater tall SUV, that the BR-V spectacularly fails? The CR-V and HR-V fares much better, and becomes the segment leaders, trading blows with Toyota’s best effort.

Well, the BR-V simply fell victim to the rule of association, being associated with the cheaper barebone Brio.

The thing is, the Brio project put too much effort in cost saving and economy of scale, Honda forgot that the market considers car purchase as an emotional act rather than logical. First gen and “2nd gen” Brio, Mobilio, and BR-V shares the exact same dashboard, door trim, and some seats making the association that all three cars are based on the original model, the entry level family car, the Brio.

First impression matters, in marketing term, it’s what defines the expectation of the brand/product going forward. The original Brio is not a car to be based on if you want to create a good impression. The original Brio lacks everything to be called a decent car. Lack of sound proofing, lack of boot space, lack of second row seating space, you name it… How do I know this, I drive one daily.

So when people was asked about Mobilio and the BR-V, by proxy what they recall is not the individual car, but the whole family because even the exterior (hood, headlights, front doors, the A pillar, window kink) is similar. When I asked my friends about the Mobilio, the definitive answer is that they will say it’s a longer Brio. When I asked about the BR-V, the consensus will say it’s a longer taller Brio. One even commented, it’s in the name, BRio-V.

So when people looked at the BR-V, what they see is not a premium 7 seater SUV, but rather an elongated and jacked up cheap car… And they are correct. The BR-V isn’t just a colossal sales failure in Indonesia, it’s everywhere where it’s sold. The initial sellout drops like a rock in the next year.

The Brio platform is now in its second generation, which underpins the second generation Honda Amaze back in 2018. Not to be confused with the revised Honda Brio hatch that got majorly revised adding rear hatch door but still retains the old chassis code, DD1/2, while the Amaze had it’s chassis code updated to DF5/6 from DF1/2.

Launching the N7X first in the ASEAN region is a smart move, and expectedly, Honda will put premium on the car. Why, because the rule of association. With Honda putting the N7X on the market first, the subsequent cars based on the platform will now be referenced as the variant of N7X, a premium car, not a variant of a cheap entry level car.

Still though what name the N7X will carry, will it still be BR-V? And risking the tarnished image of the car’s legacy, or will it be something new but still in the xR-V family? Well what’s in a name… A lot apparently.

Still though, good job Honda, you have won your first battle with launching a new car that people talks about and look up to. Now onto the war.

N7X Concept Makes Honda Interesting Again

Honda just unveiled the N7X “concept” in Indonesia that might be a preview for second gen BR-V. The reveal was interesting is that Honda put a lot of effort to make the car looks more premium than even the HR-V. The only telltale that this is an entry/mainstream car is from the dashboard design that’s lifted directly from the Honda Amaze (Brio sedan) sold in India. Anyway, you guys can watch the video of the virtual unveiling.

N7X 3/4 front view
N7X 3/4 rear view

For a 7 seater, Honda move away, like waaaay waaaay from Honda Mobilio/BR-V kinked side windows which going to give the car a more cramped feeling interior wise but definitely a cleaner and more premium looking car externally.

Now let’s discuss about the N7X heritage, the Brio… What? No Brio resemblance? Well that’s because Honda killed the Brio name from the N7X donor, which is the Honda Amaze, which technically is the second generation Honda Brio Amaze. Like my (many) rants about the Brio family, Honda blew it spectacularly with the initial launch of the platform. Everything about the Brio family screams cheap, from cheap materials, lack of sound proofing, lack of amenities, and lack of dignity in its marketing campaign.

Honda Brio Amaze is the sedan version of the Brio hatchback sold in India, Nepal, Philippines and Thailand. In India the car is relatively successful with the massive size of the Indian market and its appetite for compact sedans, however initial good sales comes to a massive dip in its third year. Compared to the competition, the Brio Amaze feels cheap and lacking in content and styling and Honda took the first generation off in just 4 years and fast track the second generation of the car, now just called Amaze. Sales picks up doubling the previous generation model best selling year since it’s launches. The Amaze addresses the Brio Amaze shortcoming especially in the styling department with proportional looks and sorted interior.

Even though the Amaze was launched two years ago, Honda never took the platform to refresh the Brio line. In fact, Honda refreshed the old platform of the original Brio and added proper hatch and call it a day. Honda also kind of refresh the Mobilio which still ride on the same platform with revised nose and added some sound proofing…. So I wonder, with Honda penchant creed to platform share everything, where does the Amaze shared its platform with… And here we are.

Honda Amaze 2019

The most obvious visual cue taken from the Amaze on the N7X is where the hood meet the front fender with the same kink line, the same straight upper body molding and the A pillar. The most striking clue that the N7X is based off the amaze is from the exact same dashboard seen in the video.

N7X interior
Honda Amaze interior

All in all, I like what Honda is doing with the next generation of the Brio family. I fear that the Mobilio is obsolete with the N7X unless Honda wanted to release a decontented version of the car. Yet this is how you hype the market, you build brand cachet first, the rest will fall in place. Honda is with new management now and all I can say, it’s in good hands.

Honda teased new model for Indonesia

Launching in Indonesia in just 2 days, Honda teased two images of a mystery car.

There are three candidate of car reveal by Honda this year, Mobilio, BR-V and ZR-V. The Mobilio is entering its 7th year of production, a long cycle for Honda standard which sticks to 5-6 year model cycle. The same goes to BR-V which is in its 6th year of production. Honda ZR-V although only mentioned in passing as Honda registers the name last year, is strongly pointed by the media that it’s going to be Honda Brio based SUV. With Kia/Hyundai, Nissan, Toyota/Daihatsu already stole the lead selling small SUV, Honda is left alone without one.

It’s hinted by a conversation with party of interest is that this is a “family car”, and with family car in Indonesia is synonymous with 7 seater, this narrows it down to Mobilio or BR-V. However there’s troubling fact that the BR-V doesn’t sell anywhere close to Mobilio, yet the BR-V family name, the CR-V and HR-V carries a familiar symbol of class.

In my previous post, I suggest Honda to kill either Mobilio or BR-V and make do with one model. The image that the BR-V is only a dressed up Mobilio is deeply ingrained, even though it’s not. Honda did extensive rework for the BR-V steering assembly, sound proofing, wider track, and larger headroom on the third row. However, the market is already accustomed to the fact that cars with a “rugged” variation is just a dress up version of the original car, made popular by Nissan Grand Livina and its X-Gear variant, and now, the best selling car in the segment, Mitsubishi Xpander and its “rugged” variant, Xpander Cross.

Honda has realized the fact and in Japan, they launched “rugged” variant of the Fit, called Fit CrosStar, which is just a Fit with different bumper and taller ground clearance. I assume Honda will not repeat the Mobilio and BR-V fiasco again and merge the car into one and probably just add a rugged version which is just a taller version of the original… Introducing 2021 Honda MOBIRIVO.

Anyway, Honda needs a strong emotion stirring product and the teaser looks like it can deliver one. With new management, I believe Honda can put up a good fight and correct past mistake. Now Honda… Give us that delicious 1.0 turbo engine will you? Toyota and Daihatsu already did.

Been awhile… And another Honda car rant

Well, my last post is about 1 1/2 years ago… I’m still alive, it’s just things have been, hectic to say the least, with a global pandemic, starting a new business, and my health went haywire a bit. The thing is also, this blog is supposed to be all things 4 wheels Honda, but as of late, there’s no interesting product from Honda since 2015. The Honda E electric is, eh… The NSX got nowhere in term of excitement, and finally, the trio of entry level cars in APAC region is major snooze fest. The Brio, Mobilio, BR-V, supposed to usher in new era of Honda in APAC, one that is cater made, cars that would fulfill the demographics to the dot.

and it flops…

Honda Brio hatch and Mobilio got discontinued in India and the Brio sedan sales are minimal. Strong Mobilio sales in ASEAN region quickly diminished in the face of competition, ultimately, one that came from Mitsubishi. The first gen Honda Brio abysmal cargo is the laughing stock of the segment. The BR-V sales are lackluster, despite carrying the mantle of the successful xR-V family badge.

Honda did quickly address the Brio sedan situation in India, ushering new full model change in just 4 years. Honda addressed the Brio hatch situation with a new model that extends the cargo bay. Honda upped the content game with the Mobilio, addressing NVH. The results speaks for itself, Honda Brio sedan (now called Honda Amaze) sales picks up nicely in India, Honda Brio hatch is the best selling car in Indonesia, and Honda Mobilio, well, it still exists, selling okay-ish but never back to the top of the segment.

The thing about Honda is that they tend to think what’s best for the customer… STOP IT. The market is not logical, it never is. The market DOESN’T NEED a SENSIBLE CAR, the market WANTS a STATUS SYMBOL. I still remember the original Mobilio pitch with its round headlights and sedated fascia, that it’s a friendly car, a capable friend of the family, hoo boy. Honda Mobilio strong initial sellout was indicative of Honda reputation of being a premium brand for all its existence. Accord, Civic, CR-V, Stream, City, Jazz, are all great cars in its segment and one that earns respect from journalists, enthusiasts, and regulars. The Mobilio was launched to much fanfare that it’s the first affordable 7 seater from Honda since they discontinued the Honda Stream in the region. Then realization hits hard about the car. It’s solidly built but with accompanying strong hint of cheapness everywhere. No smart seating arrangement, with cheap materials used in the interior and the lack of sound proofing makes the Mobilio feels like a joke of a car.

Emotion drives sales Honda, make a car that stirs the emotion not the logic.