TOKYO -- Could American Honda be getting its first hatchback Civic in years or possibly even the coveted Type R hot hatch?
The Japanese carmaker plans to start shipping the five-door Civic to the U.S. from its Swindon plant in Britain as early as summer 2016, Japan’s Nikkei business daily reported last week.
Volume dedicated to North America could reach 30,000 to 40,000 vehicles a year, the newspaper reported without giving a source.
It identified the car as the Civic hatchback. But it didn’t specify whether that might include the high-performance Type R version that debuted at this month’s Geneva auto show.
Honda stopped selling a hatchback Civic in the U.S. in 2005.
The five-door Type R, on sale in Europe this summer, gets a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that delivers more than 300 hp. It will be produced in Swindon alongside the pedestrian variant.
The shift is part of Honda’s plan to shore up production at its underused Britain plant amid weak sales in Europe. The plant has annual capacity for 250,000 vehicles. But it has kept one of its two lines, with capacity of 100,000, idle since last fall.
Utilization rates are expected to take another hit this summer, when Honda pulls the plug on the Jazz small car there.
Instead, Honda will ship the Jazz from Japan, in order to capitalize on the weak yen’s beneficial exchange rate.
Swindon also makes the CR-V crossover and Civic Tourer wagon.
A Honda spokeswoman declined comment on future product plans.
But she said that, as part of a push to streamline its loss-making European operations, Honda is relocating some Japanese employees from Britain back to Japan. They won’t be replaced by other employees from Japan, as is typically done in April.
In the fiscal third quarter ended Dec. 31, Honda’s European sales fell 11 percent to 34,000 vehicles from a year earlier.
The carmaker’s European regional operating loss narrowed to 4 billion yen ($33.4 million), from an operating loss of 8.7 billion yen the year before.