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Honda venture aims high
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Guangzhou Honda Automobile Co, a tie-up between Japan's Honda Motor Co and Guangzhou Automobile Corp, expects to sell 15 percent more vehicles in 2008 and is aiming for the 1 million mark in the next couple of years.


Fu Shoujie, executive vice-president of the joint venture, said yesterday it plans to move 340,000 vehicles in 2008, up from the projected 295,000 units this year.


The 2008 sales will include 178,000 units of the venture's flagship model, an all-new mid-sized Accord, 60,000 units of both the compact City and subcompact Fit, and 42,000 Odyssey wagons, Fu said.


He said Guangzhou Honda will be able to achieve annual sales of 1 million vehicles in "the foreseeable future" with intensive introduction of new products.


The company plans to launch at least one all-new model annually in the coming years, including under a non-Honda brand whose intellectual properties will be owned by the venture itself, according to Fu.


Guangzhou Honda, which has an annual production capacity of 480,000 vehicles, plans to put the first non-Honda model into production in 2010, possibly making it the first Sino-foreign car venture to create a badge not from overseas carmakers.


The venture in July set up a research and development center with an initial investment of 2 billion yuan, responsible for creating its upcoming "own-brand" models.


The new Accord, which has three engine options of 2.0, 2.4 and 3.5 liters, will go on sale next month, head-to-head with Toyota's Camry and the Magotan from Volkswagen - the two locally produced hot-selling mid-sized models in China.


Toyota's joint venture with Guangzhou Automobile announced earlier this week that it aims to sell 175,000 units of the Camry next year.


Fu said Guangzhou Honda will further expand sales networks next year to help achieve its sales goal.


The company will have a total 450 sales outlets across China in 2008, up from 350 by the end of this year, he said.


Fu predicted that China's entire vehicle market will exceed 10 million units next year, propelled by the nation's booming economy.


Sales of China-made cars rose by 23.2 percent year-on-year to 7.95 million units in the first 11 months, according to industry data.


(China Daily December 28, 2007)


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