Wed, Jan 22, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Honda returns to Taiwan with SUV

By Kevin Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Honda's CR-V was released in Taipei yesterday. The 2-liter vehicle retails for between NT$719,000 and NT$869,000, depending on the options.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Honda Motor Co, Japan's second-largest automaker, launched a new sports-utility vehicle (SUV) in Taiwan yesterday, striving to regain customers in a market it temporarily pulled out of last year.

Honda severed a 41-year partnership with local partner Sanyang Industry Co (三陽工業) in January last year and invested about NT$34 billion to establish Honda Taiwan Co (台灣本田) in July.

The Taiwan arm of Honda aims to sell 10,000 CR-V SUVs this year, as it tries to take advantage of growing sales in the sector, said Wey Gow-jhy (魏國志), assistant general manger in Honda Taiwan's sales and marketing division.

Taiwan is the seventh country to produce CR-Vs, Hiroyuki Yoshino (吉野浩行), Honda's president, said. Yoshino said that the popularity iof SUVs is on the rise, with more than 1.3 million CR-Vs sold worldwide.

Sales of recreational vehicles in Taiwan accounted for 15.8 percent of domestic market sales last year, according to York Chen (陳遠清), Ford Lio Ho Motor Co's (福特六和) vice president of marketing and sales.

Domestic sales of new vehicles hit 398,877 units last year, up 14.8 percent year-on-year.

That segment is expected to expand to 25 percent of the market over the next few years, Chen said. Ford sold around 15,000 Escape SUVs last year and just launched a new 3-liter, four-wheel-drive Escape earlier this month.

The first locally assembled CR-V rolled off the production line in Pingtung on Monday. The automaker will start selling the two-wheel-drive models at NT$719,000 and four-wheel-drive models up to NT$869,000.

But Honda still lags far behind the market leaders in Taiwan. Last year, Toyota Motor Corp sold 100,531 vehicles here, commanding 25.2 percent of the market, and Mitsubishi Motors Corp sold 99,334 vehicles, or 24.9 percent.

The Honda factory is also relatively small compared to its rivals such as Kuozui Motors Ltd (國瑞), China Motor Corp (中華) and Yulon Motor Co (裕隆), which produced between 50,000 and 100,000 cars annually. Kuozui produces Toyotas, China Motor assembles Mitsubishis, and Yulon manufactures Nissans.

According to Chen Chuan-lion (陳俊亮), a public relations manager at Honda Taiwan, the company's Pingtung factory is expected to turn out 12,000 cars this year, although the site can be expanded to produce 35,000 cars annually.

Still, Honda remains confident in the local market and plans to introduce its new models later this year, Honda Taiwan President Teruo Fujisaki (藤崎照夫) said, without elaborating, yesterday.

But according to company sources, the automaker may introduce one of the two models -- the Accord sedan or Fit compact car -- sometime in the second half of the year. The company has five dealerships in Taiwan and is expected to have 19 outlets by June and 30 by December.

"We hope to have a sales network of 40 outlets by the end of 2004," Fujisaki said.

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