SWINDON, England - Honda Motor Co. says it is committed to a future as an independent company, without any partners or outside financial help.
President and Chief Executive Hiroyuki Yoshino said this was behind the company's decision not to seek government aid to extend its UK car production plant or establish a new site elsewhere in Europe.
Yoshino spoke at the ground breaking for the new £130 million (euro 197 million) plant here, which will build a new small car for European markets. He said he was unconcerned by recent British government grants to Ford Motor Co. and BMW.
He said the total investment in the UK of £1.15 billion 'has been entirely funded by Honda - the company has neither asked for, nor received, outside funding.'
The company is determined to remain independent, Yoshino said. 'As Honda grows larger in size and in the scope of its operations, we plan to retain the qualities of a small company - speed, flexibility and efficiency.'
Honda has committed £450 million to the UK plant for a three-stage development. The plans also includes £120 million to upgrade existing car and engine plants to the same standards of efficiency and flexibility as the new one, plus £200 million in tooling for the new model.
The new facility, next door to the existing Accord and Civic plant, will begin production early in 2001. At full capacity it will produce 100,000 cars a year, raising total capacity at Swindon to 250,000.
'The impact on our sales in Europe will be significant,' Yoshino said. 'At present 50 percent of the cars we sell in Europe are produced at Swindon. When this expanded facility achieves full capacity, 70 percent of the cars we sell in Europe will be produced there.
'The impact on sales in the UK will be particularly strong as we have set a growth target far greater than in the rest of Europe.'
Honda is looking for a 3 percent market share in Europe with 300,000 vehicles a year, up from about 1.5 percent currently. The UK has now overtaken Germany as its strongest European market with 65,000 sales last year and a target of 70,000 for 1999. Honda hopes to reach 100,000 UK sales within three years.
The new small car, plus a new Civic range, are being developed at the automaker's research and development centers at Swindon and Offenbach in Germany.
Honda arrived in Swindon in 1985 with a small predelivery inspection facility during its association with Rover. Engine production started in 1989 followed by the car plant in 1992. The new factory will increase employment to 4,000.