TOKYO -- Honda Motor Co. predicts it will have a blockbuster January-March quarter in North America as it seeks to make up for weak sales in previous months.
Honda's latest sales forecast shows it now expects to sell 1.32 million vehicles in North America in the fiscal year ending March 31, down from the 1.375 million it had predicted as recently as August. The reason for the downgrade: Flooding in Thailand last fall disrupted electronics parts shipments and forced U.S. plants to operate at half capacity.
Honda's forecast means it is expecting a huge January-March bounce-back. Subtracting nine-month results from the fiscal-year forecast shows Honda anticipates North American sales of 460,000 in the period -- up 29 percent from 356,000 a year earlier. The year-earlier quarter came before the March 11 earthquake slammed North America sales.
Honda already had expected fiscal-year sales to drop because of the earthquake. The new lower target represents a 9 percent sales slide in Honda's most important market, from 1.458 million units in the previous fiscal year.
The company's North American plants were operating at about half their normal output from early November to early December to conserve parts that were in short supply from Thailand.
Honda was the automaker worst hit by Japan's spring earthquake. Operations were just returning to normal when floods inundated its assembly plant and suppliers in Thailand.
Honda also warned that operating profit would plunge 65 percent to ¥200.0 billion ($2.58 billion) in the current fiscal year ending March 31. Net income is seen falling 60 percent to $2.78 billion.
The Thai floods are expected to lop $1.42 billion off the automaker's operating profit. The yen's climb against the dollar and other currencies is forecast to erase another $1.65 billion, Honda said.
Global sales are forecast to slide 10 percent to 3.15 million vehicles, from 3.512 million last year. Honda said it lost 260,000 units of output because of the Thai floods.