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Friday, Feb. 24, 2006

Honda hopes Zest helps spice up its minicar lineup


Staff writer

Honda Motor Co. unveiled the Zest minivehicle Thursday, aiming to survive in the increasingly competitive domestic minicar market.

The Zest features a spacious interior and unique low floor for easy access by children and the elderly, Honda officials said. The firm is targeting families with the new car.

Honda hopes to sell 5,000 units a month of the Zest, which is priced between 1 million yen and 1.6 million yen. The car will come in four variations, including one that can be accessed with a wheelchair.

"Every manufacturer is introducing new cars to the minivehicle market," said Satoshi Dobashi, Honda's senior managing director. "We have a limited lineup, so we decided to launch the Zest."

The Zest is Honda's first minicar debut since September 2003, when it launched the Life. The firm has two other minicar models.

Domestic sales of minivehicles -- cars with engines no larger than 660cc -- hit a record 1.924 million units in 2005. Honda had a 12.8 percent share, the third-biggest after Suzuki Motor Corp. and Daihatsu Motor Co.

Honda President Takeo Fukui said the minivehicle market is growing because customers find the cars economical and convenient, and the company hopes to meet their demand.



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