We've heard from unofficial channels that Honda Malaysia may assemble the Honda Jazz Hybrid locally at its Pegoh, Melaka plant. Our source informed us that Honda Malaysia have submitted its CKD plans to MITI (Ministry of International Trade and Industry).
Of course, we want to stress again that this is just a rumour.
At CBT, we are not taking the rumour too seriously but at the same time we can't discount the possibility.
Malaysia currently imports the Jazz from Honda Automobile (Thailand) Co., Ltd's plant in Ayutthaya. The Ayutthaya plant has a combined maximum capacity of 240,000 units annually. Presently, utilization rate for the Ayutthaya plant is only around 65 percent, with around 115,000 units made for domestic Thai consumption and 40,000 units exported annually.
The Jazz is not a big seller in Malaysia, so logically if the Jazz is to be CKD, the logical thing to do would be to take up excess capacity at the Thai plant.
Under the Thailand-Japan Free Trade Agreement, hybrid CKD packs are imported tax free.
Plus, the current Jazz is already reaching the end of its model life (launched in Japan in 2007). Normally, CKD operations will begin at the early part of the vehicle's model life as obviously it won't make any sense to invest in tooling and jigs for a model than can only be used for a few years.
However, all the reasonings mentioned above can be thrown out the window the moment you include a political dimension to the equation. In the revised NAP announced back in 2009, local assembly of hybrid vehicles was one of the targets. Nearly three years on, there are still no results and our source indicated that MITI have been speaking to several manufacturers regarding this.
According to The Sun, UMW Toyota is considering local assembly of hybrid cars, but stopped short of making any commitments. UMW Toyota's President Ismet Suki said the possibility of venturing into hybrid car assembling and component manufacturing in Malaysia "is there but that there are no concrete plans at the moment".
Japanese manufacturers have a history of being more willing to accommodate requests from the government to maintain a good long term relationship.
Again, we need to stress that these are just rumours that reached our ears.
Compared to the recently launched Prius c, the Jazz Hybrid has a slightly poorer fuel economy and performance figures. It also lacks an electrical driven air-conditioning that is able to continue normal operation even when the engine is shut down, and EV drive mode.
However, the Jazz Hybrid fights back with a (possibly) lower price (cheapest hybrid in Japan) and a significantly larger interior space. The Jazz's 341-litre boot space (excluding below floor storage area) makes the Prius c's 260-litre look tiny in comparison. The Jazz is best described as smaller B-segment size car on the outside but with larger C-segment cars rivaling interior space.