* Honda to sell Civic sedan in Japan for first time since
* Honda considering making Civic in Japan for U.S. export
* Civic is Honda's best-selling car in the United States
By Naomi Tajitsu
TOKYO, Jan 13 Honda Motor Co is
bringing the Civic sedan back home after seven years, betting
buoyant overseas demand for the model would help drive sales in
Japan and allow the automaker to shake off its domestic image as
a maker of only minivans and compacts.
Allocating manufacturing capacity for the Civic in Japan may
also enable Honda to free up production space in the United
States, where the market for sedans is shrinking in favour of
SUVs, at a time when U.S. President-elect Donald Trump is
pushing automakers to make more cars in the country.
Honda on Friday said it would market the 2016 Civic sedan in
Japan from summer, selling the locally made model in the country
for the first time since 2010 - the year it stopped domestic
production due to sluggish sales. The carmaker will also
consider producing Civics in Japan for U.S. export.
Kimiyoshi Teratani, who heads Honda's Japan operations, said
he hoped the Civic would help the firm regain its reputation as
a maker of "sporty cars with attitude" in Japan, after years of
focusing on popular entry level models and multi-purpose
vehicles including the N-Box minicar and the Odyssey minivan.
"We've become known as a company specialising in minivans
and 'kei' cars, and we realised our offering of 'Honda-esque'
cars has become increasingly weak," he told reporters in Tokyo.
"The Civic may not be the NSX (Honda's supercar also
marketed under the Acura brand), but it's another model we'd
like to use to raise our brand image," he said.
Introduced in 1972, the Civic has sold 24 million units
worldwide and is Honda's best-selling model in the United
States, the automaker's biggest market.
The Civic posted record annual sales in 2016 in the world's
No.2 auto market after the latest revamped version of the sedan
was named the North American Car of the Year last year. Previous
versions of the sedan had been criticised for their lack of
reliability and uninspiring design.
However, given waning U.S. sedan demand, Honda has said it
would consider shuffling its production portfolio in favour of
its SUV models in the United States.
Teratani declined to comment on when the company may start
manufacturing the Civic sedan in Japan for U.S. exports.
"We'd like to consider political developments and
circumstances before determining the best way forward," he said.
Increasing U.S.-bound auto exports may rankle Trump, who has
threatened automakers including Ford Motor Co. and Toyota
Motor Corp. with high border taxes on cars imported
from Mexico, a growing auto production hub.
(Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu; Editing by Himani Sarkar)