Honda Motor Co. is planning to develop small-sized vehicles based on its N minicar series, a popular line in Japan, to target emerging markets.
In an interview with The Asahi Shimbun on Nov. 26, Honda Motor President Takanobu Ito said a competitive small car using technology and parts from the N series will be the key to increasing sales in emerging markets, where the automaker is lagging in the four-wheel field.
The N Box, released late last year, and other N-series vehicles feature a relatively large interior, with a compact engine space and the fuel tank placed under the floor at the center of the vehicle.
The vehicles have proved popular: More than 180,000 units of the N series had been sold as of the end of October.
"Japan excels at achieving high performance in a limited size," Ito said. "We have sharpened such technology to a level other regions can hardly imitate. It is the core of our competitiveness."
Ito went on to stress the need in the future to release small vehicles based on the N series in emerging markets after the company makes improvements and modifications in undercarriage length, engine displacement and other areas to suit the needs and tastes of each market.
Honda aims to raise sales in emerging markets, such as China and other Asian countries, to more than 3 million units by fiscal 2016.
The automaker plans to introduce a range of vehicles to those markets, including a sedan and SUV based on its Brio model of small car, which was specifically designed for Asian markets, as well as models in its mainstay Fit subcompact series.
For the time being, Honda will focus on making the Brio brand more popular, Ito said. And looking beyond, it will develop an N series-based vehicle that will be even smaller and lower-priced than the Brio, to attract the owners of motorbikes, of which Honda boasts strong sales worldwide.
In the Chinese market, Honda has set a goal of selling 1.2 million automobiles in 2015. But it has seen sales there decline sharply since September, when anti-Japan protests over the disputed Senkaku Islands flared.
Ito predicted repercussions of those protests will continue.
In Japan, Honda plans to add five models to its minicar lineup by 2015.
"We aim to sell 500,000 N series vehicles or more in fiscal 2016," Ito said.
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