TOKYO -- Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo expects his company's U.S. sales to grow next year even as the market flattens, putting more pressure on North American production capacity that already is stretched to the limit.
As a remedy, he soon may fire up Honda's Japan export engine.
In an interview with Automotive News, Hachigo said a blitz of key redesigns, starting this fall with the redesigned CR-V and continuing with updates to the Odyssey and Accord, will intensify the capacity problem.
"Let's say we reach 1.7 million [U.S. sales] this year, then we want to add on top of that next year with the new models coming in and such," Hachigo said.
His upbeat outlook contrasts with a forecast for total U.S. demand to be flat, at best, in 2017.
"If overseas plant capacity is getting close to full, then rather than make a new investment, we might think about getting more supply from another global plant," he said.
American Honda sold about 1.6 million vehicles in 2015, and Hachigo says he wants to keep stoking the increase by realigning production to feed more light trucks into the market.
Next year, Honda will add CR-V crossover production to its Greensburg, Ind., plant that makes the Civic and add Acura MDX crossover production to its East Liberty, Ohio, plant.
If those tweaks still don't satisfy demand, Hachigo said Honda will tap overseas factories. Honda's plant in Britain may send Civics to make room stateside for more CR-V output.
But more likely, Honda will tap its Japan plants for more CR-Vs or Civics.
"We'd like to utilize Japan production," he said.
Doing so would help Honda with a big headache of overcapacity in Japan.