• Nna/kyodo

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Honda Motor Co.’s India unit, launching the first car primarily developed by its own research and development team, expects more participation from the local unit in launching new vehicles for the domestic and global markets.

In launching the subcompact SUV Honda WR-V, Honda Cars India Ltd. President and CEO Yoichiro Ueno said the firm expects the local unit to play a greater role in the development of new models as it gains expertise in design and engineering concepts.

“Our local R&D team, established basically to help the company in its localization efforts … now possesses necessary skills required to develop new car models, and will be more involved in the development of new cars,” Ueno said during a launch event for the new model.

He said the car was primarily developed by the local team in coordination with staff in Japan.

“The local unit specifically worked on a design and engineering concept suitable for right-hand drive and India-exclusive powertrains,” he added.

The automaker’s Indian arm said it had hired more local talent in recent years.

“We have hired a mix of young and experienced engineers in India, increasing the size of our local R&D team,” said Shingo Ogaya, chief engineer of Honda R&D India Pvt. Ltd., who worked closely with the team on the development of the WR-V.

“The success of the new model developed by the local R&D team would mean more work for them in the near future,” Ogaya added.

Honda Cars India added that it is in the process of acquiring land in the state of Gujarat for its third plant in the country. Domestic demand for passenger cars is predicted to grow to between 9.4 million and 13.4 million units, up from the current 3.2 million units, by 2026, as envisioned by the government’s automotive mission plan.

Ueno said 388 acres of land has already been acquired and that the firm will add even more. But he added that there are no immediate plans to build a third plant as near-term demand is currently being met.

The firm, with a total annual production capacity of 300,000 units, sold around 140,000 units in the April-February period of the current fiscal year ending March 31.

It is banking on new model launches to further drive sales.

“India is the first country to manufacture and launch the Honda WR-V in the world, which is testimony to Honda Motor Co.’s commitment to the Indian market,” said Noriake Abe, chief operating officer of Honda Motor’s Asia and Oceania regional operations.

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