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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Honda preps plug-in hybrid, EV for 2012

New chief airs plans to meet global needs


Staff writer

WAKO, Saitama Pref. — Honda Motor Co. said Tuesday it will debut in 2012 a hybrid car that can be charged at home and an electric vehicle in Japan and the United States, a move expected to further fuel competition for environmentally friendly vehicles.

"The business environments surrounding Honda have changed in the past few years," Honda President Takanobu Ito told reporters at one of the carmaker's branches in Wako, adding people are becoming more environmentally conscious and leaning toward compacts.

"It is inevitable that we respond to these changes in the world," he added in the first major news conference detailing Honda's strategy since Ito became president in June 2009.

Japan's second-largest carmaker plans to develop midsize and large plug-in hybrids and compact electric vehicles, which Ito said should go over well with commuters.

A plug-in hybrid differs from a regular hybrid in that the rechargeable batteries can be restored to full capacity by hooking up to an external electric source.

Honda plans to release various hybrid models beginning this fall. The Civic hybrid will be equipped with high-powered lithium-ion batteries supplied by a joint venture with GS Yuasa Corp. that will start up later this year.

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. began selling its mass-produced electric vehicle, the iMiEV, earlier this year, while Nissan Motor Co. has begun taking orders for its Leaf electric vehicle, which will debut in Japan and the U.S. later this year.

Toyota Motor Corp. plans to introduce an electric vehicle in 2012.

Ito also said Honda will gear up production in emerging markets, including other parts of Asia and Africa.

Asked about the impact on the automaker from the worker walkouts in China, Ito said Honda has no plans to change its sales goal for this year, although the strikes have delayed production of about 20,000 units in China, where the firm set a sales target of 632,200 units.

"We do not intend to change our (sales) plan in China," Executive Vice President Koichi Kondo told the same news conference.

Elsewhere in Asia, Honda will launch an entry model priced at less than 500,000 rupees next year in India, and will sell a fuel-efficient car based on the entry model in Thailand and export the vehicle to other member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Honda will meanwhile build a motorcycle plant in Indonesia in the latter half of 2011, adding about 500,000 units to its annual production there. In Asia, overall annual production will reach 18 million bikes by the end of the next year from the current 16 million.



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