Honda to Strengthen Its Hybrid Standing in the World

By: Anthony Fontanelle

Japan's second-largest automaker and producer of , Honda, is hoping for its global sales to increase by 6 percent this year to 3.76 million vehicles as demand in US, Asia, and Europe grows, according to Honda's President Takeo Fukui last Wednesday.

The company has also stated that it plans to invest in research for hybrids and on other new technologies in Japan. Mr. Fukui also stated "The competition in hybrids has just begun", specifically referring to Toyota which is currently dominating the hybrid market with its top-selling Prius.

Mr. Fukui said the Honda will present a new hybrid model that operates on both gas and electricity offered at an affordable cost by 2009. With this new model the company is targeting to sell around 200,000 vehicles a year. The automaker will try to focus more on its hybrid offerings and in the process increase its overall hybrid sales to around 10 percent by 2010.

Honda is also expecting for sales to keep on growing in other parts of the world by 2008 and that includes North America, Europe, China, and Japan where sales dropped by 12 percent this year to 620,000 vehicles. The automaker has prepared four new models for Japan to entice buyers, according to Mr. Fukui in an interview with reporters at Tokyo hotel.

The manufacturer of Accord sedan and Civic compact did not provide the overall global sales forecast for 2008 but Mr. Fukui has projected that the North American sales will increase by 3 percent to 1.59 million next year adding it to the expected 3 percent growth this year to 1.55 million vehicles.

The sales projection of Honda for this year is up from the 3.55 million vehicles last 2006. And just like its archrival Toyota, Honda has also obtain sales boost from the recent increase in oil prices add to that the company's high reputation for good mileage.

Mr. Fukui also announced that the company will spend around $425 million for the construction of a new research center in Japan designed for the development of next-generation cars including fuel cells and hybrids.

The new research center is scheduled to start operation by 2009 but only partially. The official opening of the research center will be on 2010.

Mr. Fukui said that the hybrid system developed by Honda is by far better than that of Toyota's in the sense that it cost less thereby allowing the automaker to sell its planned hybrid at a more competitive price --- and to just how much it will cost? Well Mr. Fukui declined to give any information.

At present there is a great demand for Accord in the US while the Fit subcompact is a hit in Japan. In Europe where Japanese automakers are relatively new in the market, Honda is posting really good results as a matter of fact for this year the company has projected a 23 percent increase to 380 vehicles and sees an 11 percent sales growth next year to 420,000 units.

The expansions being implemented by Honda in Brazil and Argentina has also help boost sales in South America. Similarly sales in China are also projected to increase by 29 percent to 420,000 units sold this year.

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