Honda Looks To India, Southeast Asia To Boost Sales

Automaker expects the quick economic recoveries in Southeast Asia and India to boost sales even as Honda lags overall growth in these markets.

TOKYO (AP) -- Honda expects the quick economic recoveries in Southeast Asia and India to boost sales even as the automaker lags overall growth in these markets, an executive said Tuesday.

Fumihiko Ike, a Honda Motor Co. executive overseeing Asian markets, excluding China and Japan, said recovery from the global financial crisis that hit late 2008 was coming much faster than expected in India, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and other nations in the region.

But Honda's offerings remain mainly aimed at the relatively wealthy, even with a low-priced model targeting Asian buyers that's expected to go on sale next year.

"All automakers will be coming out with products targeting this market," Ike told reporters at Honda's Tokyo headquarters. "Our brand image is high, and targets the relatively wealthy."

Honda has fallen behind rivals such as Hyundai Motor Co. of South Korea and Japanese rival Toyota Motor Corp. in Asian markets.

Hyundai especially is seeing enormous growth in emerging markets, outselling Honda in annual sales by about a million vehicles, Ike said.

He stressed Honda will stick to its policy of going at it alone, rather than seeking alliances with rivals to boost sales. Alliances are seen as a way to cut costs by sharing parts, boost model lineup and reducing technology development expenses.

The key to survival in the industry amid intensifying competition is instead efficiency, and that's difficult to maintain when automakers from differing backgrounds get together, Ike said.

Japanese rival Suzuki Motor Co., a major player in India, has recently announced an alliance with Volkswagen AG, where one advantage is in sharing development costs for green technology.

Ike acknowledged Honda won't have models targeting car buyers in India until next year but the country's growth would be so great Honda can't help but see sales growth.

"The absolute numbers will be enormous," he said of the growth expected in India. "They will translate into the equivalent of several Southeast Asian nations."

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