Honda Motor Co. has pulled the curtain back on an unusual seven-seat crossover utility vehicle it hopes will strengthen its foothold in an increasingly wealthy region of more than a half-billion people. P.T. Honda Prospect Motor, the Japanese automaker’s Indonesian subsidiary, revealed its BR-V concept car during the 10-day Gaikindo Indonesia International Auto Show, which opened Thursday.
The BR-V (which stands for Bold Runabout Vehicle) is a nod to Honda’s CR-V crossover utility vehicle, the second-most-popular Honda in the U.S. after the Accord sedan. But the BR-V has one significant difference: an extra row of seats in the back.
The design aims to appeal to middle-class Southeast Asian families living in crowded cities, many of whom are looking for something besides minivans for ample interior-seating arrangements. Crossovers are essentially small-engine sedans with SUV-like cabins that cost less than the giant, ostentatious, gas-sucking SUVs that Americans can’t get enough of. Most SUVs are too big and pricey for heavily populated Asian cities.
Like other Honda crossovers and minivans, the BR-V will be highly dependable and boring to drive. Its 1.5-liter engine is linked to a six-speed manual transmission. The four-cylinder motor will deliver 120 horsepower and 107 pound-feet of torque – substantial enough to get the kids to the mall or carry luggage on the roof.
The BR-V will be released in Indonesia next year and will later move to other Asian markets.
The vehicle is Honda’s attempt to offer the region’s growing middle class something that's both new and familiar as rivals like General Motors, Ford and Volkswagen try to gain ground in Southeast Asia.
“As a whole, the Southeast Asian automotive market is quite large and growing robustly,” said James Chao, Asia-Pacific managing director for IHS Automotive. “Japanese automakers have dominated most of the Southeast Asian countries for years and are intent on defending their market share in the region.”
Southeast Asia new-auto sales are expected by IHS to grow this year by 6 percent, to 3.3 million units. While poverty has kept new-car sales volume low, the region's growth prospects are high, say analysts, especially in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Honda is betting a crossover utility vehicle with minivan-like seating will be a hit.