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Honda Motor Co. unveiled its restyled CR-V sport utility vehicle Thursday, betting its third version of the model will help it grab a bigger slice of the domestic SUV market.

“We hope the new CR-V will appeal to (parents) whose children are grown up,” and have their own time to enjoy, Honda President Takeo Fukui said at a news conference in Tokyo.

The market for cars in Japan has been shrinking for the past year, but Honda hopes to boost its sales with the launch of the new CR-V, company officials said.

Honda calls the new CR-V sportier and more stylish, with a shapely design that lowers the vehicle’s height by 2 cm compared with the previous model.

The new CR-V features upgraded safety features, including an automatic breaking assistance system that enhances stability and prevents the car from skidding sideways on curves.

According to Honda figures, the domestic SUV market peaked in 1996 at 480,000 vehicles, but it has remained flat for the past four years with annual sales of about 200,000 vehicles.

Honda’s share of the lucrative SUV segment, which was once as high as 20 percent, has slid to less than 5 percent in recent months due to fierce competition, the automaker said.

Honda hopes to sell 2,000 new CR-V models per month. They range in price from 2.47 million yen to 3.23 million yen.

The CR-V is a strategic car for Honda in the global market. It has sold more than 2.5 million CR-Vs worldwide since the model debuted in 1995.

Fukui said Honda hopes to boost global sales of the CR-V to 400,000 units in 2007, compared with 320,000 in 2005.

The new CR-V hit showrooms in the U.S. late last month and will go on sale in Europe early next year.

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