Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Honda eyes global sales rise in 2008

Honda Motor on Wednesday predicted it would beat this year's record car sales in 2008, and said it would step up its research and development functions by building a dedicated facility for its premium Acura brand.

This year, Japan's second-biggest automaker increased its global sales by 6 percent to an estimated 3.762 million cars as it grew in all regions except the shrinking domestic market.

Expansion was especially brisk in the emerging markets of China and South America but Honda, along with domestic rival Toyota Motor Corp, also charged ahead in the mature U.S. and European markets to grab a bigger slice of the pie.

At a news conference to sum up 2007 and provide an outlook for next year, Chief Executive Takeo Fukui said he expected Honda's car sales to continue growing in 2008, including in the tough Japanese market with the roll-out of four new products. It launched three cars in Japan this year, including the Accord-based Inspire sedan unveiled on Wednesday.

"Sales will grow in all regions, so (global sales) will rise again," Fukui said.

In the crucial U.S. market, where industry watchers and executives have grown increasingly downbeat due to the subprime loan fallout, Honda aims to sell 1.59 million vehicles next year, up 3 percent from the 2007 estimate of 1.55 million.

"We've set our forecast at a cautious level," Executive Vice President Koichi Kondo said, predicting the total U.S. market would inch down to 15.9-16.0 million vehicles in 2008 from around 16.1-16.2 million this year.

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