TOKYO -- Honda Motor Co. plans to launch an entry-level car cheaper than its popular Civic sedan in its main U.S. market in 2006, joining rival Toyota Motor Corp.in targeting the younger generation.
"Our customers have long been demanding a car in the class below the Civic," said Senior Managing Director Michiyoshi Hagino told a mid-year news conference. "By 2006 we believe demand will be even stronger and this new car will be a necessity."
Toyota, Japan's top auto maker, has enjoyed surging sales for its Scion brand, which is aimed at young buyers looking for stylish cars priced under $16,000. The brand is now available across the United States after initially being rolled out only in California a year ago.
Honda, which has an 8 percent share of the U.S. market, said it would also continue to launch new products in the popular light trucks segment, starting with the new Odyssey minivan this autumn and the car-based "sport utility truck" (SUT) next spring.
Elsewhere, Honda said it would continue to strengthen its minivan line in Japan, adding at least one new model or fully remodelling an existing one every year.
In diesel-thirsty Europe, it will add a diesel-powered version of the CR-V sport utility vehicle in early 2005, hoping to repeat the success of its Accord diesel sedan.
Honda is also planning a diesel version of the FR-V minivan, called Edix in Japan, and the next generation Civic.
Honda is aiming to boost global automobile sales by 10 percent this calendar year to around 3.2 million units after a 3 percent rise in 2003.
In the 12 months through March, Honda posted a 17 percent drop in operating profit, hit by dismal domestic sales and a weaker dollar, and was replaced by Nissan Motor Co. as Japan's second-biggest auto maker in terms of global sales.