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Honda boosts European models

2007-03-09 10:13

Honda Civic hybrid

Honda is planning to enhance its European model lineup with "at least one" entirely new model, the president of its European division told Dow Jones Newswires.

In an interview at the Geneva Motor Show, Shigeru Takagi, Honda chief operating officer for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said the company wouldn't be launching any more new models from its current range this year, but was thinking of introducing new models to its lineup.

"At least one - a couple of models," he said, without giving further detail or an indication of timing.

Honda is planning to raise its local production in Europe this year. The Japanese car maker has already announced that it will increase output at its plants in Turkey and the UK Takagi said this will mean local production is closer to 70% of sales by the end of 2007, from about 50% now.

The UK plant in Swindon will produce 250 000 vehicles per year after capacity is raised, while the company's plant in Turkey will produce 50 000 vehicles.

The company expects to sell 350 000 vehicles in Europe in 2007, up from 310 000 in 2006.

The boost to local output will shelter the company from further volatility in the yen exchange rate against the Euro, he said.

Japanese motor stocks have been hit hard in recent weeks because the yen has appreciated against both the dollar and Euro, making Japanese exports less competitive.

Takagi said Honda has no plans to look for a production site in Russia yet, even though the car maker expects to sell 30 000 vehicles in that country this year.

"We are focusing on building and developing dealer networks. We have started strongly in appointing viable dealers, but it takes time to build a network up from scratch," the head of Honda Europe said.

Takagi said Honda was keeping a close watch on European Union proposals that would force car manufacturers to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. "It will take a year or so for the proposals to be finalized and we're watching developments closely," he said.

The European Commission recently proposed laws that would require car makers to reduce average CO² emissions across their fleets to 130 g/km by 2012, with a further reduction to 120 g/km coming from other technologies such as better road surfaces and tire technology.

Honda is working on several technologies to boost its environmental performance, including fuel cells, more efficient diesel engines and further hybrid engine technology, Takagi said. The car maker already has a hybrid version of its Civic model on the market.

Takagi said Honda expects to sell around three times more hybrid vehicles in Europe in 2007 than the 3,500 it sold in 2006. Worldwide, Honda is expecting to sell 30 000 hybrids this year, he said. Hybrids combine an electric motor with a normal diesel or gasoline transmission system to drive a car.

Honda also expects to bring an entirely new type of hybrid car to market in about two years, Takagi added.


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