Europe: Honda's Biggest Challenge

Anthony Lewis and Chris Wright in Paris

Success in Europe is still Honda's biggest challenge, said Hiroyuki Yoshino, Honda's president, unveiling the new Accord at the Paris motor show on Thursday.

This is despite record sales worldwide last year and sales so far this year in Western Europe* increasing by more than 13 per cent to 119,234 from 105,428.

Part of the strategy for Europe will be to offer more diesel engines with the CR-V finally getting diesel power from 2004.

The 2.2 litre engine, Honda's first advanced technology diesel engine, will appear in the new Accord towards the end of next year.

Mr Yoshino described the new diesel engine as "world-beating". It is a lightweight all-aluminium unit meeting Euro 2005 emission regulations.

The new European Accord is built in Japan, unlike previous generation Accords which have been sourced from Honda's UK plant in Swindon. It goes on sale across Europe from the New Year with an estate version, featuring a longer wheelbase, joining the line-up in the spring.

Swindon, where a second plant opened this year to take capacity up to 250,000 units a year, plays a key role as part of Honda's global manufacturing network and will concentrate on Civic and CR-V production.

"Fuelled by the popularity of the UK-built Civic and the CR-V, production at our Swindon factory is expanding rapidly," said Mr Yoshino.

"So far this year, vehicle output from the No 1 and No 2 plants is up more than 63% setting new records for the Swindon facility," he said.

Another part of Honda's European strategy is to offer the most diversified line-up of engines for any region in the world. "Our powertrain line-up will drive Honda's momentum in Europe," said Mr Yoshino.

Part of that diversified line-up includes the new Civic Hybrid which made its European debut here and will be the first established mainstream vehicle equipped with a petrol-electric hybrid system when it goes on sale early in 2003 in the UK before being rolled out across the rest of Europe.

Instead of the 1.0 litre three-cylinder engine used in the Insight - Honda's first production hybrid - the Civic Hybrid uses a 1.3 litre four-cylinder petrol engine, similar to that used in the Jazz. It also has a more powerful electric motor, while numerous electrical components have been combined, lightened and reduced in size.

Part of Honda's commitment to Europe, said Mr Yoshino, includes supporting the EC's target of reducing road casualties by 50% by 2010.

"By producing volume cars that are class leading in occupant protection and class beating in pedestrian protection we hope that in some way we are contributing to that goal," he said.

Next year, when the EuroNCAP test is published, the Jazz is expected to be the class leader in both occupant and pedestrian safety,," said Mr Yoshino.

Published 27 September 2002 Melanie Carter

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