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Honda to boost exports of US-made vehicles
by Staff Writers
Detroit, Michigan (AFP) Jan 9, 2012

Honda will further boost exports of US-built vehicles and expand its overseas production in order to hedge against an "abnormally high" yen, the Japanese automaker's chief said Monday.

The Japanese automaker aims to increase local production to about 70-80 percent of the vehicles it sells in each region while importing the rest from various plants around the world, Honda chief executive Takanobu Ito said.

"That's the way we can grow, and that will be the ultimate method to hedge against these kind of currency ups and downs," he said on the sidelines of the Detroit auto show.

"In the US, for example, we have already achieved 87 percent of local North American production, which satisfies me," Ito said through a translator.

"What I'm asking North America or the US to do is to contribute to other regions such as the Mideast by providing North American production to those regions."

The comments come as Honda reels from supply disruptions from the March quake-tsunami-nuclear disaster in Japan and recent flooding in Thailand.

Global production will not return to normal levels until March, said Ito, who declined to estimate how badly sales were hit or how long it will take Honda to return to pre-disaster sales level of 3.6 million vehicles worldwide.

"2011 was like a jinx," Ito said.

There is a superstition in Japan that at some point a person hits a year where they have a bad fortune no matter what they do, he explained. The only way to recover is to go to a shrine and pray.

"I went to Nikko shrine on New Year's and had that bad omen taken away from me," Ito said.

This year will be one of recovery, Ito added.

Production in the United States was not as badly hit and the Japanese automaker plans to boost North American production by 20 percent in 2012, said American Honda president Tetsuo Iwamura.

"Last year we had a big handicap for production due to the shortage of the parts, so we have full confidence that we'll be able to sell the incremental part of the production in this market," he said.

Honda also expects to boost US sales by 25 percent in 2012, after posting a 7.1 percent loss in 2011. Its sales target includes 1.25 million Hondas and 180,000 luxury Acura vehicles.

Honda plans to introduce three new Acuras later Monday at the Detroit auto show and expects an excellent customer response.

"For Acura, we would consider it an immediate success if we achieve 180,000 sales this year," Iwamura said.

"Of course we are much more ambitious for the future."

Honda currently exports US-built vehicles to 40 countries, including all Acura exports to China and Accord sedans to the Middle East.

Exports from its US and Canadian plants rose 29 percent to 47,206 vehicles in the first 11 months of 2011 despite the parts shortages.

Honda is also "enhancing" its small car lineup in order to achieve 70 percent of local sales volume for the "K" class of vehicles, Ito said.

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Detroit, Michigan (AFP) Jan 9, 2012
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