SWINDON, UK - Governments across Europe are courting Honda, which wants to add new plant capacity for a new supermini model.
Toshio Ishino, the president of Honda UK, said feasibility studies are in progress in the UK and on mainland Europe. France, Spain, Poland and Hungary are among the possible locations for a new plant, Ishino said.
'Many countries have invited us,' Ishino said. 'There has been much speculation but no decision has been taken. But we cannot wait for ever.
'We want to expand in the European market. The 50th anniversary of the company would be a suitable time to announce our decision.'
Honda celebrates its 50th anniversary in September.
Honda has room to install another assembly line at its factory in Swindon, UK, where it builds the Accord and Civic. A strong British currency hurts the prospects for adding capacity in the UK; a strong supplier base helps.
Honda showed three concepts at the Geneva auto show, each of which foreshadows a car to be sold in Europe. The J-BX supermini was among them.
Ishino said final design decisions on the supermini to be built in Europe would depend on forthcoming legislation, economics, environment, market conditions and consumer expectations.
He said the project was 'still at the economic concept stage.'
However, strategically the new supermini would be designed to attract owners who wish to downsize, Ishino said. 'We will not launch another Nissan Micra.'
He said the supermini would be an economical, lightweight, high-quality product.
Honda has invested more than $1 billion in Swindon, which is boosting annual capacity from 100,000 to 150,000 units.
Of the 248 European firms currently supplying components for the Accord and Civic five-door and new Civic Aero Deck station wagon, 188 are based in the UK.
Germany supplies a number of components and Offenbach near Frankfurt is the location of Honda's European design center, but German labor costs rule out a manufacturing facility there, said Ishino.
'We have good experience in UK and we are pleased with Swindon,' Ishino said, 'and we have space there for another line, but we must check and compare other areas.'