SWINDON, England - Honda Motor Co. Ltd. plans to boost its European market share without any partners or governmental handouts. Company CEO Hiroyuki Yoshino said this lay behind the company's decision not to seek government aid to subsidize its assembly plant here or establish a new site elsewhere in Europe.
Speaking at the groundbreaking for the new $202 million plant -a factory that will produce small cars for the European market - Yoshino said he was unconcerned by recent British government grants to Ford Motor Co. and BMW AG.
He said Honda's $1.8 billion total investment in England 'has been entirely funded by Honda - the company has neither asked for, nor received, outside funding.'
The company is determined to remain independent, Yoshino said. 'As Honda grows larger in size and in the scope of its operations, we plan to retain the qualities of a small company: speed, flexibility and efficiency.'
Honda has committed $698 million to the Swindon plant to pay for upgrades of the existing car and engine plants, plus tooling for the new assembly line.
The new plant, next door to the existing Accord and Civic plant, will begin production early in 2001. At full capacity it will produce 100,000 cars a year, raising total capacity at Swindon to 250,000.
'The impact on our sales in Europe will be significant,' Yoshino said. 'At present 50 percent of the cars we sell in Europe are produced at Swindon. When this expanded facility achieves full capacity, 70 percent of the cars we sell in Europe will be produced there.
'The impact on sales in the U.K. will be particularly strong as we have set a growth target far greater than in the rest of Europe.'
Honda aims for a 3 percent market share in Europe, or 300,000 vehicles a year. That would be a sharp increase from Honda's current 1.5 percent share.
England has overtaken Germany as Honda's strongest European market with 65,000 units sold last year and this year's target of 70,000 units. Honda wants to boost sales to 100,000 units within three years, largely driven by added production from Swindon and growth in the country's fleet sector.
Honda launched operations in Swindon in 1985 with a small predelivery inspection center. The automaker started engine production in 1989 and opened its assembly plant in 1992. The new factory will increase employment to 4,000.
Honda is developing its new small car plus a new Civic line at its research and development centers in Offenbach, Germany, and Swindon.