In spite of the economic crisis in Japan, the country's small-car manufacturers could see an increase in sales this year.
In October alone 16 new small cars were launched in the market.
Kentaro Shimizu, managing director of Daihatsu Motor, believes the segment could pass 1997's 1.6 million sales. 'There has been a lot of investment in safety and fuel consumption and there is a lot of competition over price,' he said.
'We currently export 100,000 cars a year. With demand for small cars growing, fueled by companies like Mercedes-Benz introducing the A-class and the Smart Car, there is great potential in this market.'
Daihatsu has been a long-time specialist in the small city car segment with models such as the Move and Cuore. Those two revised models had world introductions at the Birmingham auto show. It was the first time a new Daihatsu had debuted outside Japan.
'There is no conflict between the model ranges of Daihatsu and Toyota,' said Shimizu. Toyota recently increased its stake in its long-time partner to 51 percent.
With the relaxation of import quotas of Japanese vehicles into Europe approaching, Daihatsu is looking to double exports over the next five years.
'We have already grown from 2,000 cars a year to 11,100 in 1997,' said Paul Williams, chief executive of Daihatsu UK. He said Daihatsu expects to sell 12,500 this year. 'In 1999 we are looking at 15,000, with a target of 25,000 cars in the UK within the next five years. We have 105 dealers and we intend to increase that number.'
Daihatsu also plans to increase sales in the Far East. It has raised its stake in its Indonesian Astra joint venture from 25 percent to 50 percent.
'The market in Indonesia has suffered very badly,' said Shimizu, 'and it was a good time economically to increase Daihatsu's stake.'