Dixon driving local market Type R push

Place Kiwi Indy hero into snappy new hot hatch and point at the nation’s international-focus hillclimb.

STAR racing car driver Scott Dixon will be taking a hands-on competitive approach in his role as an ambassador for the first Type R car to be sold new here in more than 20 years.

Promotional duty with the Honda Civic Type R hot hatchback, which comes on sale in September for $59,990, will involve the winningest active Indy car driver, with four championships and 40 victories – including an Indianapolis 500 win in 2008 – going for glory in an annual hillclimb of international repute.

Honda New Zealand says the long-time driver for the Honda-supported Chip Ganassi Racing team will race the Civic at next year’s Leadfoot, the motorsport festival staged every February at the Coromandel ranch owned by another Kiwi racer who has done well in North American motorsport, Rod Millen.

Dixon’s Type R association is purely NZ-centric; it has not drawn involvement from Honda in Japan or North America and comes about MotoringNetwork was told, as result of a Honda NZ high-up happening to know the driver’s family.

Honda NZ national sales and marketing manager Nadine Bell let slip about the association at the conclusion of a media question and answer yesterday, in response to being asked to outline some of the effort her brand was putting into drawing attention to the first Type R product sold new here since an Integra of 1995.

“I’m not meant to tell you this but we have secured Scott Dixon as a Honda ambassador, for us in New Zealand, and he will be racing the Type R up the hillclimb at the Leadfoot Festival.”

More information about Dixon’s involvement is set to be released next week, she said.

The link tops a strategy that will also see Honda taking the car to the SpeedShow and Big Boys Toys’ festivals.

“We will also do some track days, potentially … we will put the car in the right places, to reach those automotive purists who have been longing for Honda to be back in that space.

“I’m confident that the vehicle will do the job for us.”

The Civic Type R spans four generations and 20 years, but this is the first of the type that has status as an official NZ market model.

She said the idea was to use the Type R to make “the Civic cool again.”

Bell says the car says a lot about Honda. “It reflects our unique thinking, our desire for constant reinvention, our passion for creating the perfect sports machine for the track and the road is imprinted into … its DNA. It’s a car that has been built for the thrill of driving.

“The Type R will reignite the aspiration for the Civic brand and the Honda brand in New Zealand.”

Bell says  46 cars have been pre-ordered. “The enthusiasts and the fans have been watching for quite some time. There’s lots of inquiry.”

The Integra Type R was relatively short-live here; once Japan-market cars arrived as parallel and used imports Honda NZ lost pricing advantage.

However, Bell says even if this Type R – which sources from the United Kingdom – came under the same threat, her intention is to keep selling it as a brand-new factory-authorised product.

“We’re in it for the long haul. There is a very strong commitment from our management team, and our managing director, to ensure we have the essence of Honda represented here.

“Our history is all about reinvention and sports DNA so there is a strong commitment right now to continuing this.”

Though Honda has yet to signal the potential of supply constraints, she would not be surprised if that occurs.

“The last I heard the vehicle had achieved 30,000 (global) pre-orders. Our vehicles are not in production yet and we are launching, in September, at the same time as the rest of the world, which is really exciting for us.

“We have sold out of our first shipment, of 30 cars, and we have additional orders.” This demand meant all cars coming until December will spoken for.

“I think this will be an instance when stock allocation will based on orders. I don’t think we will get stock allocation without an order, because of the global demand.”

Meantime, Honda NZ keeps holding hope of being able to sell the new NSX here, though that will not happen before next year.

“It is the next project. We are planning – and we are not promising, but we are planning – to launch next year. We are doing everything in our power to bring that car, because we see that is the key next step in getting people to rethink the Honda brand in NZ.”