TOKYO -- Honda Motor Co. President Takanobu Ito, aiming to diversify operations away from Japan, wants North America and other regional hubs to export 20 to 30 percent of their output to other markets.
The export goal comes as Ito is predicting record U.S. sales in 2013 and again in 2014.
Honda plants in the United States, Canada and Mexico currently export about 5 percent of their output. The bulk of the export surge is expected from plants in Ohio and Alabama, where Honda makes large vehicles better suited to export markets, Ito said.
"There is not a precise figure, but ideally if the regional production capacity is 100 percent, then 70 percent to 80 percent should be sold in the local market and the rest should be supplied to other regions," Ito told Automotive News.
"I consider that the ideal on which I'm making a proposal."
For North America, it means ramping up shipments of large cars such as the Accord sedan and Pilot crossover to overseas markets such as the Middle East, Ito said.
The target for boosting exports from places such as the United States is part of a new realignment of Honda's production base.
The goal is to build a bigger localized footprint that is less reliant on high-cost Japan and able to react more quickly to fluctuations in exchange rates and worldwide demand.
The plan also will be adopted at Honda's regional production bases in Southeast Asia, Latin America and Europe. But the United States, being the company's most developed factory network outside of Japan, is expected to spearhead the drive.
Ito did not specify the timing but said the plan would take awhile to implement.
"My biggest challenge is trying to grow Honda globally in a well-balanced manner," he said.
"We are asking all the regions to manage their own operations. But so far we have not been able to deliver cars in a timely manner that truly meet the differing needs of customers in the various regions."
Last year Honda produced 1,691,088 vehicles in North America, implying an export target of around 340,000 units.
Honda exported 77,309 units from the United States and Canada in 2012. Honda does not disclose separate figures for exports from Mexico, but exports from the United States, Canada and Mexico account for only around 5 percent of total output, a spokesman said.
Through September, overseas exports from the United States and Canada already have exceeded last year's 12-month total, at 83,916, out of total North American production of 1.3 million.