(Fixes throughout to clarify that Honda executive's family name
* Honda plans 10 new and upgraded models in China by 2015
* Aims to double China sales in same period
* Will bring more high-end Acura models to China
* Aims to begin making electric vehicles by year-end
By Fang Yan and Don Durfee
BEIJING, April 10 Honda Motor Co Ltd will launch
10 more car models in China by 2015 and expects sales in the
country to double over the same period, a senior executive said
on Tuesday, as it moves to narrow the gap with foreign rivals in
the world's largest auto market.
Honda is looking to China to help it recover after
the car maker was buffeted by natural disasters in Japan and
Thailand last year, which caused its global output to plummet by
a fifth to 2.91 million cars.
"We've been too cautious in China, this is undeniable," the
head of Honda's China operations, Seiji Kuraishi, told reporters
"We will step up efforts to bring in new products developed
for the Chinese market."
The new upgraded models it plans to bring in to the country
include some China-focused small cars, he said.
Honda, which make cars in partnership with Dongfeng Motor
Group Co and Guangzhou Automobile Group Co,
is a relative late-comer in China, where General Motors
and Volkswagen AG have built a sizeable lead.
Honda sold 617,764 cars in China last year, compared with
Volkswagen's 2.26 million and GM's 2.55 million.
Peers Nissan Motor delivered twice as much in the
country during the period, while Toyota Motor sold 43
To help improve Honda's competitiveness, Kuraishi also wants
to aggressively cut procurement costs and lower vehicle selling
prices in China, where small cars remain a major growth driver.
Honda's Civic now sells for 160,000 yuan to 170,000 yuan
($25,400-26,900) in China, higher than some competing brands in
the segment which fetch 120,000-150,000 yuan.
"In order to boost Civic sales volume, we need to put the
car right in that sweet-spot range", Kuraishi told reporters.
LUXURY CARS AND ELECTRICS
The Chinese market has been growing more slowly after
Beijing scrapped incentives for small cars last year. Overall
sales climbed 5.2 percent last year, the slowest pace since
China's car culture took off at the turn of this century.
Luxury cars, however, continue to race ahead thanks to the
growing ranks of the moneyed class. BMW <BMWG.DE, Mercedes-Benz
and Audi all registered more than 35 percent gains in car sales
in China last year.
Honda plans to bring the more high-end Acura line to the
country to ride on the luxury car bull run.
Its Acura ILX and RDX will hit showrooms this year, followed
by the RLX in 2013, said Seiji.
The Japanese automaker will also begin producing electric
vehicles by the end of the year in partnership with Guangzhou
Auto, joining Volkswagen, Nissan and other rivals to tap China's
green car potential.
($1 = 6.3085 Chinese yuan)
(Reporting by Fang Yan and Don Durfee; Editing by Chris Lewis &