TOKYO - Daihatsu Motor Co. will add a sporty minicar to its lineup in England and Australia as early as July, following stronger-than-expected demand at home.
Confident that the 660cc turbo roadster, called Copen in Japan, will appeal to those markets for a right-hand vehicle, the Toyota Motor Corp. subsidiary plans to ship "several hundred" units a month, says Takaya Yamada, Daihatsu's president.
In England, Daihatsu will use local distributors with 100 outlets for the Copen debut, while enlisting Toyota's sales network in Australia.
Daihatsu has no plans to upgrade the engine and hasn't decided whether to change the name of the model for those markets.
The Copen has been a hit in Japan, where it is priced at ¥1.498 million, or about $12,480 at current exchange rates.
From its debut last June through January, Daihatsu has sold 7,500 for a monthly average of slightly more than 1,000. That's well above Copen's original sales target of 500 a month.
Although young women, retirees and rural buyers make up most of the market for Japan's 660cc minicars, most of the Copen's buyers have been male.
In Europe, Daihatsu sold a total of 24,028 units in 2002, estimates JATO Dynamics, a London-based consulting firm. That's down from 26,814 in the previous year.