Honda Motor aims to boost its vehicle sales worldwide by 10% year on year in 2004, which would mark its highest growth in seven years, the company said on Wednesday, according to Dow Jones.

It would also be Honda's first double-digit growth in global sales volume since 1997, when it posted a rise of 10.2% in sales worldwide, the report noted.

Dow Jones said the upbeat projection for 2004 underlines the robust business trend at Honda, which expects to post a record net profit for this fiscal year to the end of March for the third straight year.

The report said Honda expects its slack domestic sales to improve after it rolled out new models late this year and plans more new models in 2004, while it also expects continued brisk US and European sales to help it reach its target for next year.

Honda will target global sales of 3.2 million units in 2004, up from the 2.91 million vehicles its expects to have sold this year, Dow Jones said.

The report said Honda aims to sell 1.4 million vehicles in the US, up 3.7% from its estimated 1.35 million units sold there this year, while its forecast for this year is 8% up on its 2002 US sales.

According to Dow Jones, Honda expects car demand in the US to edge down to 16.5 million vehicles in 2004 from its estimated demand for 16.6 million units this year while, in Europe, Honda expects its sales to grow 2.3% to 220,000 units from its estimated 215,000 units this year.

Honda is also more optimistic about its sales prospects in Japan, Dow Jones said, where it will target sales of 800,000 cars next year, up 8.1% from its estimated sales of 740,000 units this year.

However, Honda expects its sales volume at home this year to drop 18% from 2002, the report added.

Honda plans to launch two new light truck models in the North American market over the next three years, Dow Jone said, citing Honda president Takeo Fukui.

The new models "won't be pickup trucks - they'll be SUTs, sport utility trucks," Fukui reportedly said.

One of the two North American models will be shown as a concept car at the Detroit motor show in January, he added, according to Dow Jones.

Fukui reportedly added that Honda anticipates demand for passenger cars in China to grow to seven million units in 2010 - car sales there reached 1.5 million units in the first 10 months of this year.

Dow Jones said Honda will more than double its annual production capacity in China to 320,000 vehicles next year, from 120,000 this year, as it starts building the CR-V sports utility vehicle model and begins export production.

The report added that Honda will set up a wholly owned subsidiary in China in January to oversee operations at its 11 joint ventures and subsidiaries there.