GUANGZHOU, China - Germany is the target market for Honda's first car exports to Europe from China.
Selling China-built Jazz models in Germany is part of Honda's strategy to convince the world that cars made in China are high quality.
German consumers have the highest standards, said Atsuyoshi Hyogo, chief operating office of Honda's China operations.
"We are sending these models with complete confidence," he said at an event in Guangzhou port, 130 kilometers northwest of Hong Kong, to mark the start of Jazz exports.
He spoke as Honda logistics workers loaded 146 units of its Jazz small-segment car onto a ship bound for Europe. The cars will arrive in Ghent, Belgium, at the end of the month.
The number of cars in the shipment was small, 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. "Maybe we can export to the US or other markets."
The cars were made at Honda Automobile (China)'s Guangzhou plant, the only automotive factory in China producing cars for export only. Honda owns 65 percent of the company, Guangzhou Automobile Industry Group owns 25 percent and Dongfeng Motor Group Co. 10 percent.
Foreign companies are banned from majority ownership in a company producing cars for the domestic market.
Honda Automobile (China)'s plant has a 50,000-unit-a-year capacity, but it only will make 10,000 Jazz models for export this year. All those cars will be sent to Europe. Honda hopes to export 50,000 a year by 2006 and 150,000 annually by 2010, a Guangzhou Auto executive said.
Honda has two joint ventures making cars in China for the domestic market. Guangzhou Honda Automobile Co., a 50-50 partnership with Guangzhou Auto, makes the Accord sedan, the Fit small car and the Odyssey large minivan.
The Dongfeng Honda Automobile Co. makes the Honda CR-V medium SUV. The plant will begin assembling the Civic in spring of 2006.
Honda has no immediate plans to export China-made cars to North America. That would be a politically charged issue given China's trade imbalance with the US, Honda executives said.
The Jazz is Honda's top-selling model in Europe. The automaker sold 35,100 units during the first five month in western Europe, according to UK-based market researchers JATO Dynamics.