Thursday, June 16, 2011

UPDATE: Honda Pres: Yen Remains Big Concern As Seeks To Restore Ops

By Yoshio Takahashi

TOKYO (Dow Jones)--Honda Motor Co.'s (7267.TO) chief executive voiced concern about the yen's strength Thursday, noting its current position could offset the Japanese auto maker's attempt to recover after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

"My feeling is that (the business) situation is tough, especially foreign exchange. I hope that the (unfavorable yen level) will change," Takanobu Ito, president and chief executive of the car maker, said at a press conference for the launch of the auto maker's Fit Shuttle hybrid wagon.

Earlier this week Honda said that it expects its net profit for the current fiscal year through March to drop 63% on the back of the yen's strength and reduced output resulting from a parts shortage in the wake of the disaster.

Honda expects a scarcity of some key parts from suppliers stricken by the disaster to reduce its global sales by 6% to 3.3 million vehicles this fiscal year.

In a bid to push sales during harsh times, Honda rolled out the Fit Shuttle hybrid wagon in Japan three month behind the initial schedule due to the earthquake.

The new hybrid with a starting price of Y1.81 million was developed based on its Fit company hybrid and can run 30 kilometers on a liter of gasoline.

This price is lower than the lowest price of the Prius Alpha minivan hybrid launched last month by Toyota of Y2.35 million.

Toyota's new hybrid was also introduced in Japan with a delay due to the disaster.

Honda said it has received orders for 7,000 Fit Shuttle hybrids, well above the model's monthly sales target of 4,000 units.

But Toyota sees much stronger demand for its newest hybrid, saying Tuesday that it has received 52,000 orders in Japan for the new minivan version of the Prius hybrid one month after its launch. The number far outstrips the company's 3,000 monthly sales target for the Prius Alpha.


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