TOKYO -- A new Fit-based crossover that could come to U.S. showrooms is one of several new models that will support Honda Motor Co.'s ambitious new growth plan.
Others due in the next few years include a new Civic Type-R and an open-cockpit mini sporty car.
President Takanobu Ito's new business plan aims to boost global sales 50 percent to 6 million vehicles in the next four years, largely on sales of small cars such as the Fit and their derivatives. Much of the increase will come in emerging markets.
In the current fiscal year ending March 31, 2013, Honda forecasts record sales of 4.2 million, up 35 percent from the earthquake-disrupted prior fiscal year. Honda sold 3.6 million vehicles in calendar 2012.
"This is a big number," Ito said of the 6 million target. "It's a declaration of our determination. Can we really make it by 2016? It's really a question of how much the Fit contributes to global sales."
Ito said the standard Fit and a derivative would be made at Honda's new assembly plant in Mexico starting in the spring of 2014. That factory's main mission is to supply the United States. The derivative could be the crossover or a Fit-based sedan.
Meanwhile, the new high-performance Civic will go on sale in Europe in 2015. Ito declined to say whether it would reach North America. But he said there is demand in other markets. The Civic Type-R was phased out in 2010.
The redesigned Fit debuts next year. It will be the first model created through Honda's overhauled r&d approach. Ito aims to slash lead time and costs by simultaneously developing the same global model at technical centers around the world.
The CEO said his new approach will halve the time needed to get new cars to market. Right now it would take four years to deliver three different nameplates. That will fall to two.
"The key to growth is smaller cars and newer markets," said Kurt Sanger, an auto analyst at Deutsche Securities in Tokyo. "Even U.S. growth is predicated, it seems, on expanding the Fit lineup with derivative models from that."
Small cars, exemplified by the Fit and a tinier car called the Brio, will fuel growth in booming emerging markets.