Honda Dominates 2001-02 Output As Rivals Cut Back

Tokyo, April 23: | Updated: Apr 24 2002, 05:30am hrs
Honda Motor Co outpaced its domestic rivals in output in the year that ended on March 31, as Japans second-largest automaker revved up production while others cut back to focus on restructuring.

Honda said on Tuesday it boosted output by 6.8 per cent to 2.69 million vehicles in 2001/02 on demand for its runaway hit Fit subcompact as well as the Step Wgn and Stream minivans.

The company kept up the pace in March, with global production rising 5.4 per cent year-on-year to 251,658 vehicles on solid sales of the Fit and its new Mobilio minivan. Hondas stunning year was in sharp contrast to its rivals, with Japans top automaker, Toyota Motor Corp, plumbing a low point in its product cycle and other automakers cutting production as they restructured.

Honda had a great year in 2001, but there also was less competition, said Hideaki Aonuma, auto analyst at Tokyo-Mitsubishi Securities. Toyota, coming off a strong 2000-01 powered by its subcompact Vitz, saw worldwide production rise only 0.4 per cent in 2001-02 to 5.2 million vehicles due to lower domestic sales.

Global production for Toyota on a group basis which includes output from minivehicle subsidiary Daihatsu Motor Co Ltd and truck maker Hino Motors Ltd fell 0.3 per cent to 5.91 million vehicles. However, Toyota saw group global output rise 2.5 per cent to 561,092 vehicles in March and is expected, like Honda, to post record earnings for 2001-02 thanks to a weaker yen, cost cuts, and strong sales of high-margin vehicles in the US market.

Japans third-largest automaker, Nissan Motor Co Ltd, short on new products as it pushed ahead with restructuring, cut global output by 5.3 per cent to 2.47 million vehicles in 2001-02. However, Nissans cost-cutting efforts under the leadership of Frances Renault and the weak yen are forecast to have given it record profits for the year.

Output is now expected to rise, with Nissan and Japans other restructuring automakers shifting focus to boosting sales from cost-cutting with new vehicle blitzes in the new business year.

Domestic sales might not go up much this year but Nissan, Mazda, and Mitsubishi unit sales increases should outpace the overall market, said Aonuma.

Nissan saw global production for March rise 4.5 per cent year-on-year to 238,500 vehicles on demand for its recently launched Altima sedan and the subcompact March. Mitsubishi Motors Corp and Mazda Motor Corp, also suffered a slump in output in 2001-02, but will benefit from a series of new releases in the coming years.