GUANGZHOU, China - Dragon dancers celebrated the departure for Europe on June 24 of the first batch of Honda-brand cars made in China.
The number of cars was small - just 146 - but Honda has big hopes for exporting more from China in the future. And not just to Europe.
"If we can make it in Europe, we can make it anywhere in the world," said Hironori Kanayama, president of Honda Automobile (China) Co. Ltd. "Maybe we can export to the U.S. or other markets."
But the Japanese automaker has no immediate plans to export China-made cars to the United States. That would be a politically charged issue given China's trade imbalance with the United States, said Atsuyoshi Hyogo, COO of China regional operations for Honda Motor Co. "How would the U.S. government react?"
Honda has told of plans to sell the Fit car in the United States by year end, though. The U.S.-bound Fit will be assembled in Japan. The Fit and Jazz are essentially the same car.
The shipment of Jazz subcompact coupes is destined for Ghent, Belgium. They should arrive in four to six weeks, said Honda logistics workers who were at the ceremony. The next shipment will leave this week. "We hope it will be more cars," one said with a smile.
All 146 in this batch will be sent to Germany, part of Honda's strategy for convincing the world that cars made in China are of high quality. German consumers have the highest standards, Honda says.
"We send them with complete confidence," said Hyogo.
The cars were made at Honda Automobile (China) Co. Ltd, which operates the only automotive plant in China currently producing cars solely for export. Honda owns 65 percent of the company, Guangzhou Automobile Industry Group owns 25 percent, and Dongfeng Motor Group Co. 10 percent.
The plant has a 50,000 car annual capacity but will only make 10,000 Jazzes for export this year. A Guangzhou Auto executive said that Honda hopes to export 50,000 annually by 2006 and 150,000 annually by 2010.