TOKYO Feb 24 Honda Motor Co (7267.T) plans to
produce more of its new Insight hybrid cars from April, having
received orders for almost three times its monthly sales target
for the gasoline-electric model it launched on Feb. 6 in Japan, a
top official said on Tuesday.
Honda plans to launch the Insight, its first attempt at a
low-cost, high-volume hybrid, in Europe and the United States
over the next two months.
Japan's No.2 automaker is targeting global sales of 200,000
Insights a year, with half of that in North America and 60,000 in
Japan, hoping to rival Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) as a leader in
the hybrid segment. [ID:nT16570] [ID:nN11273855]
"The response has been overwhelming," Hiroshi Kobayashi,
deputy chief operating officer for Honda's domestic operations,
told a small group of reporters at a test-drive event in Tokyo.
"We will have to increase production plans," he said. But he
stopped short of saying how much it could expand output given
possible supply limits for hybrid components.
Customers in Japan will have to wait at least one month for
an Insight if they ordered one today, he said.
Honda is positioning the Insight as its fifth "global car"
alongside the Civic, Accord, Fit and CR-V cars, which
collectively make up about two-thirds of its car sales.
Kobayashi said half of the Insight sales so far were to
customers switching from other brands, including premium import
brands and Toyota's hybrid leader, the Prius. The Insight starts
at 1.89 million yen ($19,980) in Japan.
"What's unique about the Insight is that we're attracting a
broad range of drivers, from (660cc) minivehicles to sedans to
minivans," Kobayashi said.
While cautioning that the Japanese car market remained tough
-- total vehicle sales in January fell 20 percent from the year
before -- Kobayashi said Honda aimed to sell as many cars in the
business year from April as the 570,000 to 580,000 units he
expected it to sell in the 12 months to March 31.
Toyota is due to launch its third-generation Prius in May,
pricing it slightly higher than the current version, which starts
at 2.3 million yen in Japan. Local media have reported widely
that Toyota would take the unusual step of selling the current
model at a discount alongside the new version to compete with
A Toyota spokeswoman said the company had made no such
(Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Hugh Lawson)