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.