To say that Honda is savage is an understatement. We are talking about an automotive company who will gladly discontinue automotive icons like Integra, Prelude, and S2000 in a heartbeat if it doesn’t perform financially. This fact is not new, way back when Soichiro Honda and Takeo Fujisawa was still kicking and laying the foundation of the company it is now, they both spar a lot. In one story of Honda biography, when developing the Honda 1300 in the 1960s, Soichiro Honda had quarrels with his engineers. Takeo Fujisawa then intervene. There’s some conflicting story from various sources, but suffice to say, business decision talk happened and although the 1300 with air cooling is out for a sale, it’s short lived, making way for the Accord. So guys, if you’re a true hardcore Honda fan, look for the Honda 1300 as to my knowledge, it’s the last Honda car that Soichiro Honda technically involved in.
Anyway… Back to which one to kill, Mobilio or BR-V…
The problem with Mobilio and BR-V is that they kind of overlap with each other. Similar interior and utility makes it hard to justify buying one from each except for the price, which the Mobilio has advantage over the BR-V. Yes the BR-V have better NVH (noise, vibration, harshness), but it’s marginal and the only thing it has to the general populace is its SUV look. However I couldn’t dismiss the engineering merit BR-V carries such as the actively cooled CVT, that uptick in power and more head room on the third row.
If I’m in the position of the bean counters looking at the big picture, I will kill the Mobilio and keep the BR-V for its second generation. The Mobilio only sells well in Indonesia, and for a regional project that’s bad. The BR-V sales in the region is on the rise, because globally, people leans towards everything SUV or strong stance looking MPV. This is why cars like Mitsubishi Expander succeeds, because it crosses the boundaries between your mommy and daddy car. Unofficially, they call these cars MUV, a portmanteau from MPV and SUV, although the original meaning is very far from a simple combination of words. In United States and Europe, they just call these kind of cars, crossovers.
Off course strong brand is a strong brand, and the Mobilio has established itself in Indonesia very well with 200 thousand units running around in the country to date. My take killing the mobilio is killing the car, but not the name. So the next generation Mobilio physically is dead, replaced by a second generation BR-V, but call it the Mobilio in Indonesia while the same car is called BR-V anywhere else.
My idea for the next generation 7 seater is pretty standard, make the car wider and with fold flat 50:50 third row seat. The 1.5L i-VTEC and CVT combo is potent as is, perhaps a 1.0L i-VTEC turbo is warranted to put Honda in the forefront of automotive technology, but I’m worried about the lack of maintenance culture and Honda engine tolerance for low grade fuel.
Honda main competitor is obviously the Mitsubishi Expander, and because it’s physically a larger car, the current gen Mobilio/BR-V is simply a smaller alternative. Sure, large isn’t always good, bigger car, heavier weight, more frontal area and thus less fuel efficient but it’s what the market demanded, so Honda needs to follow suit. I don’t like tall cars, the Expander almost grazed that line, so I’m still okay. What I wanted from a second generation Mobilio/BR-V is a wider car, the current gen headroom is already good but the shoulder room needs a lot of improvement. In either current gen Mobilio or BR-V, I always scrap elbows with the driver when I sit in the front passenger seat. Especially when the driver is pulling the e-brake.
There’s also another issue with Mobilio and BR-V life cycle. The Mobilio is due for a major change in most likely a year’s time, since it’s already in the market for 6 years now, while the BR-V only entered its 4th year now. So will Honda pull similar move like the Amaze in India? Changing the model in just 4 years? I really hate to be Honda product planner now.
I love Honda and its fighting spirit, they always fight hard with fresh and exciting product portfolio. However I just don’t like the Mobilio from the start. It’s too generic, and not Honda special. Honda should never go with the principle “what they need” anymore. Yes, the Mobilio is what the market needs, but not what they want anymore.