GENEVA -- Honda Motor Co. expects to expand sales of its flagship Civic brand by 50 percent in Europe with new diesel-powered models, the Japanese automaker said on Tuesday.
Shigeru Takagi, president of Honda Motor Europe, said the group was on track to meet sales forecasts for 2005 despite high metal prices and was pinning its hopes on a comeback for the Civic brand in Europe.
Takagi, speaking to Reuters on the sidelines of the Geneva Motor Show, said he expected sales of the Civic in Europe to increase by 50 percent over time, from 75,000 units in 2004.
"We want to regain the Civic business. I am very confident we can increase volumes for the Civic. My expectation is a 50 percent increase," Takagi said.
He also said Honda was on track to sell a total of 275,000 cars in Europe in 2005, up from 255,721 in 2004.
The company's sales jumped 17.6 percent in 2004, off the success of its Accord and Jazz models.
The planned diesel-powered version of the Civic compact due in early 2006, as well as the launch of diesel versions of the CR-V off-roader and the FR-V minivan in 2005 are expected to drive sales going forward.
Honda planned to maintain existing production levels of 190,000 units at its Swindon plant in Britain by replacing some existing capacity with increased diesel-engine assembly.
He said high raw material costs remained a challenge but Honda expected to offset some of the impact with lower costs.
Honda aims to target European customers by raising the ratio of its vehicles powered by diesel-powered engines, popular in Europe.
Takagi also said Honda was eyeing growth in new markets. The group has recently established subsidiaries in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Russia.