Business / Corporate

Hybrid Accord targets mileage-conscious Camry buyers


Honda Motor Co. will sell a hybrid version of the Accord in Japan that has the highest fuel-economy rating among midsize sedans to close the gap with Toyota Motor Corp.’s Camry.

The car will initially go on sale June 21 and has a fuel-efficiency rating of 30 km per liter under the JC08 testing standards, Honda said in a statement Friday.

The Camry hybrid travels 23.4 km a liter, according to Toyota, while Nissan Motor Co. says its Teana, which runs on gasoline, gets 11.4 km per liter.

Honda plans to introduce the latest Accord in the U.S. this fall as the carmaker targets record sales in its biggest market this year.

The newest version, the Accord’s ninth since its debut in 1976, is part of Honda’s plan to increase global sales of hybrids as buyers seek more energy-efficient vehicles.

The latest model’s fuel-efficiency is “extraordinary,” said Koichi Sugimoto, an auto analyst at BNP Paribas SA with a buy rating on Honda. “The new hybrid technology will definitely be a big strength for Honda.”

Japanese fuel-economy standards differ from the U.S. because the ratings are calculated from tests conducted under different driving conditions.

The automaker, led by President Takanobu Ito, will have hybrid systems with one to three motors catering to the power requirements of models ranging from compacts to the NSX supercar, it said last September. Honda is aiming for annual global sales to climb to 6 million units by the year ending in March 2017, Ito said Sept 21.

The Accord was the best-selling car in April in the U.S., where it last led annual sales in 2001. Honda sold 33,538 units of the Accord last month, beating the 31,710 for Toyota’s Camry, according to figures from the companies.

As of April, Accord sales have surged 26 percent this year in that market, compared with a 6.8 percent drop for the Camry, the top-selling car in the U.S. for 11 years through 2012.

The 2013 Accord is the top pick among midsize sedans, followed by Hyundai’s Sonata GLS and the Camry, Consumer Reports magazine said Feb. 26. The Camry XLE V6 was the highest-rated family car among models with a larger engine, according to the magazine’s review.

Sourcing China batteries


Toyota Motor Corp. is considering producing batteries in China for hybrid cars with local maker Hunan Corun New Energy Co., officials of the automaker said.

As Toyota plans to begin manufacturing gasoline-electric hybrids in China around 2015, the anticipated joint production would help the company to cut costs, the sources said Thursday.

According to the officials, a company would be set up with a capital of around ¥5.2 billion in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, where Toyota has a research and development center for environmentally friendly cars.

Investors in the new firm would include Primearth EV Energy Co., Toyota Tsusho Corp. and a Chinese investment house. Primearth was jointly set up by Toyota and Panasonic Corp. for the production of hybrid car batteries.

Hunan Corun New Energy acquired Panasonic’s automotive nickel-hydride battery business in Japan in 2011.

Output abroad up 8.8%


The combined number of vehicles produced overseas by the eight biggest Japanese automakers rose 8.8 percent in April from a year before to 1.36 million thanks to a buoyant U.S. market and sales in emerging economies.

Meanwhile, domestic production fell 6.5 percent to 708,606 vehicles, down for the eighth consecutive month, according to data released by the automakers Thursday.

Automakers struggling to cope with a strong yen implemented various long-term measures to hedge against exchange rate risks. Shifting production overseas was one of them and the trend continues.

Overseas output by Honda Motor Co. and Daihatsu Motor Co. hit record highs in April, while Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co. and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. saw their overseas production hit record levels for the month.

Output in China by six makers excluding Daihatsu and Fuji Heavy, which do not own plants there, grew 3.3 percent to 277,461 units.

The figure showed improvement from a slump caused by the territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands that flared up last autumn.

“Domestic demand is rising thanks to the economic recovery,” a Toyota official said. But the market has yet to see a full recovery in demand after the expiration of government subsidies for environmentally friendly vehicles last year as well as other factors.

Amid shrinking exports, domestic production fell at all companies except Mazda Motor Corp. and Fuji Heavy, which makes Subaru cars.

Overall production, both at home and overseas, at Suzuki Motor Corp. fell by 8.4 percent while Mitsubishi Motors Corp. had a drop of 3.3 percent.

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