The fortunes of the first five years are met with more triumph in the next five years!
In the previous chapter, Honda launched its journey in Malaysia while introducing the key figures important to its start. Let’s continue the journey while maintaining Honda’s tried and tested ‘Challenging Spirit’ that has brought success upon success.
The Third Managing Director and CEO, The Bringer of Honda Civic
Holding on to this ‘Challenging Spirit’ is what the third Managing Director and CEO of Honda Malaysia, Mr. Yasuhide Mizuno, hopes will help Honda Malaysia to maintain its leadership position. That is why a number of social-conscious programmes were initiated to continuously nurture a ‘challenging’ and ‘fighting spirit’ among associates.
March 2006 would prove to be an eventful month with the launch of Honda’s breakthrough model, the Honda Civic, which was launched to great fanfare at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC). The Honda Civic was a market leader for several years in its segment. Expectations were high for this model with sales expected to make up 20% of all Honda model sales that year. This 8th generation model was launched with two variants, the 1.8S and the 2.0S. Its space-age design inside and outside proved to be an amazing hit and it came out top in the J.D. Power Asia-Pacific 2006 Malaysia Initial Quality Study (IQS).
To commemorate the multiple milestones achieved by Honda which included rolling out the 100,000th registered Honda, winning the Merdeka Millennium Endurance Race for the fourth consecutive time, and receiving Autocar ASEAN Overall Car of the Year and Mid-size Sedan/Hatch for the Honda Civic 2.0S, Honda Malaysia rolled out a special limited-edition Honda Civic.
This limited to 90 units model Honda Civic Concept Mugen came fully equipped with a Mugen bodykit that comprised a front and rear lip, side skirts and a rear wing. Two 17‑inch rim options, gunmetal or bronze Mugen GP and a special plaque with an individual serial number added to the exclusivity of the car. With Mugen being the brainchild of Mr. Soichiro Honda’s son, Hirotoshi, this was a big deal to Honda fans out there. This was not the only limited-edition Honda launched towards the end of 2006; the Honda CR-V Concept Modulo painted in a striking Nighthawk Black Pearl also made its special appearance. This car was limited to 150 units kitted out in full Modulo accessories and Honda CR-V embossed leather seats.
The Fourth Managing Director and CEO, The Champion of Dreams
April 2007 saw the appointment of the fourth Managing Director and CEO of Honda Malaysia, Mr. Atsushi Fujimoto. Mr.Fujimoto remarked, “The Honda Malaysia team members here are young, yet they learn fast, grasping new ideas quickly.” Mr. Fujimoto, a Honda loyalist since 1986, took over the reins from Mr. Yasuhide Mizuno but still held to his predecessor’s dream of launching the Honda Civic Type-R. Malaysia was the only country outside of Japan to officially have this model, a recognition of the importance that the Malaysian market holds for Honda.
April 2007 also saw the start of the Honda Dreams Fund, a five-year commitment to give the underprivileged a chance at higher education. This was a joint effort between Honda Malaysia and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Malaysia. This collaboration presents an opportunity for 20 underprivileged youths to pursue their dreams through education. Through the Honda Dreams Fund, the selected scholars were afforded the chance to study the course of their dreams in pursuit of a better life.
Moving on to the next success, 2007 was a significant year for both Malaysia and Honda. Malaysia celebrated its silver jubilee, while Honda introduced a host of new models, starting off with the Honda Accord 2.0 VTi-S. This luxurious upgrade came standard with leather seats, electric front seats, dual-zone air-conditioning, and a premium audio system among others. The Honda CR-V also made its mark in the growing SUV segment with an improved 2.0L i-VTEC engine that delivered performance as well as balanced fuel efficiency. Two long-awaited Honda Civic models also took to the stage with polarising abilities. On one end of the spectrum, the super powerful and nimble Honda Civic Type-R, and on the other end an advanced but economical Honda Civic Hybrid. These game-changing Honda Civic models made their appearance in September.
Honda Malaysia’s Meteoric Rise
Great news greeted Honda in 2008, with its highest-ever sales volume for 2007, thanks to the market’s great response towards the Honda CR-V, the market-leading 8th generation Honda Civic and the enhanced Honda City.
The 2nd generation Honda Jazz was launched with the aim to please the fashionable crowd, with its innovative interior layout and well-designed shape. With its design direction, it only made sense to launch it with a fashion show helmed by Malaysia’s top designers, Melinda Looi, Khoon Hooi and Jonathan Cheng.
More excitement awaited Malaysian motorists, as they were introduced to the new Honda Accord, now in its 8th iteration. This elegant mid-size sedan was available with a 2.0 VTi, a 2.4 VTi-L, and for the first time in Malaysia, a 3.5 V6, making it the biggest engine in Honda Malaysia’s stable—larger than the 7th generation Honda Accord 3.0 V6!
Everyone’s favourite B-segment car, the Honda City (now in its 3rd generation) made its debut at the end of 2008. Many Honda City fans were awed by the sharp looks this model sported, a stark contrast to the 2nd generation Honda City. The many improvements included a more spacious interior and boot space.
Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility, or ASIMO as it is more popularly known, had also reached Malaysian shores and visited a few locations around the country while showing off its abilities like running, gripping objects and interacting with people. ASIMO even painted Batik, the first for an ASIMO. Honda’s humanoid is a testament of Honda’s ‘Challenging Spirit’, taking 22 years of R&D to perfect.
Rising to the Challenge
With the world still reeling from the global financial crisis of 2008, and the Total Industry Volume (TIV) in Malaysia suffered a 5% contraction, Honda’s ‘Challenging Spirit’ reared its head proudly once more and achieved a 17% growth year-on-year in 2009. The late Mr. Toru Takahashi could not have joined Honda Malaysia at a better time. His vast experience, being a veteran of Honda since 1977, would prove valuable during his tenure. He attributed the strong performance to Honda’s commitment to providing highest quality products and services at reasonable prices, strong brand image and expanding dealer network. Clearly the Three Joys, namely the Joy of Selling and Joy of Buying, worked in Honda Malaysia’s favour.
Honda Malaysia’s fifth Managing Director and CEO had a colossal task ahead of him, and the market conditions did not stop Honda from introducing more ambitious models, like the Minor Model Change (MMC) Honda Civic and the limited-edition Honda Jazz Grade S Modulo. This car was limited to 100 units and finished in an exclusive Cerulean Blue Metallic.
The young family favourite, the refined Honda Stream RSZ, also came out that year complete with a full bodykit and redesigned RSZ front grille. Not forgetting the new variant Honda Accord 2.0 VTi-L that also brought along a new colour, Taffeta White and a host of other luxurious improvements. After achieving an encouraging sale of 200 units, it set the stage to launch the facelifted Honda Civic Type-R. The significant change was the diamond cluster tail lamps while sticking to the same price-point as the pre-facelift model.
45 journalists were lucky enough to experience eight Honda cars at the Sepang International Circuit in November 2009. Honda Malaysia called it ‘Driving the Honda’s DNA’, an experiential media test drive and lucky members of the media were able to test eight Honda cars for their safety, stability and agility.
The New Decade Beckons
While sales in 2010 continued to skyrocket for Honda, the late Mr. Toru Takahashi maintained that even with the increased production, customers’ interest is tantamount, where striving for customer satisfaction is Honda’s No. 1 commitment.
That same year, the sleek Honda Freed finally reached Malaysian shores. This 7-seater mini MPV had enough cup holders and automated sliding doors to keep the fussiest of families happy. Paired with it is the efficient 1.5 i-VTEC engine that’s also found in the Honda Jazz and Honda City, making it a reliable people mover.
KL International Motor Show (KLIMS) 2010 also proved to be a memorable event, being the seventh time Honda has exhibited. Honda’s Innovation in Motion display also won Best Booth at KLIMS that year, which made it the perfect stage to launch Honda’s next foray into the hybrid market, the Honda Insight.
An internal survey conducted amongst Honda customers found that some owners enjoyed personalising their cars with accessories that refreshes their car’s looks. With both Mugen and Modulo producing both exclusive and sporty car accessories officially for Honda, it only made sense for Honda Malaysia to introduce the Concept M models, which were the Honda Civic, Honda Jazz and Honda Accord. The seventh President and Chief Operating Officer of Honda Malaysia, Mr. Rohime Shafie was quoted saying this: “Concept M models were created to meet customers’ preferences and expectations of new and exciting products.” The limited-edition cars were available exclusively in white. The Honda Civic and Honda Jazz came with Mugen kits while the Honda Accord came with Modulo kits.
Honda Malaysia ended its first decade on a high after selling over 200,000 units while consistently embracing the 3 Joys that is the philosophy of Honda: ‘Joy of Creating’, ‘Joy of Selling’, and ‘Joy of Buying’. As Honda Malaysia’s third CEO, Mr. Yasuhide Mizuno, aptly put it: “I wish to see not only Honda Malaysia welcoming its 11th year in Malaysia, but to see it flourish over the next 15 to 20 years.”