Honda Set for Record Car Sales, Sees More Growth

Japan's Honda Motor said on Tuesday it was heading for a 5% rise to a record 3.55 million global car sales this year and predicted a strong jump in Europe and steady growth in the United States in 2007.

Chief Executive Officer Takeo Fukui told a news conference the nation's no.3 auto maker was targeting a 13% climb in European sales next year to 350,000 units.

Honda has said it aims to go upscale in Europe, focusing on the premium end of each vehicle segment. It hopes, for example, that its new Civic series will snatch away drivers of Volvo, Audi and BMW while holding on to previous Civic owners.

It also expects strong growth in Asia-Pacific countries excluding Japan and China, aiming for a 12.5% rise to 360,000 units.

In the United States, where sales have climbed on the new CR-V crossover and other light trucks, Honda said it would aim for a 3.3 percent rise to 1.56 million vehicles.

Honda also said it would invest 25 billion yen ($212 million) to build a new engine plant in Japan, with an annual production capacity of 200,000 units.

It also plans to double output capacity at a Brazilian car plant to 100,000 units by mid-2007 and its main China joint venture, Ghuangzhou Honda, is looking at establishing a local automobile research and development centre.