Honda is to end European Accord production in England in 2003, a decade after it began with the previous-generation model.

In a statement, Honda said that in a further effort to maximise efficiency, production of the third generation European Accord would be ‘consolidated’ in Japan with production of the Japanese market version.

At present, the European Accord is smaller and differently styled from the U.S. and Asia-Pacific export models, built in Ohio and Thailand, while the Japanese-made domestic market line-up is different again.

A Honda UK spokesman would not comment on future model plans but hinted that the next European model would be closer in appearance to models built in Japan with differences limited to ‘legislative items’ such as exterior lamps.

The Honda Accord

He added that Japan was the most likely source because moving the European Accord there would increase plant efficiency.

In its best year, the European Accord accounted for about 50,000 units of Swindon production but the spokesman said the current rate was only about 30,000 in a plant now expanding to an annual output of 250,000.

The move is part of a major shake-up intended to improve efficiency at the Honda of the U.K. Manufacturing (HUM) plant in Swindon and restore the Japanese company to profit in Europe – its current nemesis.

Honda will now focus Swindon, where a second production unit comes on-stream in July, on producing models based on the company’s global compact platform – the Civic hatchback and the CR-V – in order to reduce investment in new model introductions and reduce production costs.

In summer 2001 HUM will join Honda’s global product supply network by starting exports of the new Civic 3-door to Japan in autumn 2001 and to North America early next year.

Next-generation North American CR-V exports will also begin early in 2002.

“These strategies further demonstrate the flexibility and efficiency gained through our new manufacturing system and global product supply network,” said Honda president and CEO Hiroyuki Yoshino.

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A new small hatchback with an ultra-efficient 1.3-litre petrol engine is another part of the Honda rebuild-in-Europe strategy. This car will replace the current Logo, launched two years ago to a lukewarm reception and now rarely seen on European roads.

Honda also plans to extend its new manufacturing system to its European motorcycle plants in Italy and Spain and plans to launch 25 new models by March 2004 while raising the ratio of locally produced motorcycles to 60 percent.

The global product supply network will, for the first time, supply European markets with small displacement motorcycles from Honda plants in developing nations.

Honda will also expand European production of power products such as general-purpose engines in Italy and mowers and hedge trimmers in France.

Expect to see more of the Japanese logo on the racetrack, too.

Honda plans to show for the first time a brand new V5 four-stroke engine, to be used for future WGP races, at Spain’s Catalunya Circuit on June 16.

It will also continue to participate in the superbike, trial and other motorcycle competition series in Europe, as well as the Formula One Grand Prix motor racing series.

Although there’s a cloud over the European operations, it’s not all bad news for Honda.

Yoshino added that Honda might achieve record revenue and net profits during the current fiscal year – two years ahead of the original recovery schedule.

Meanwhile, overall sales reached a new record of over 11.58 million units in the recently completed fiscal year that ended on March 31.