European car buyers are definitely turning greener, according to Honda’s European and UK boss Ken Keir.

“The demand for our hybrid cars is just astonishing,” he said. “It is far outstripping the supply of vehicles we get from Japan.”

Honda and Toyota have been leading the field with hybrids across Europe. While cost remains an issue, Keir said that cheaper alternatives are on the way. He said Honda was developing a small hybrid car – below the current Civic Hybrid – which should be available from 2009.

“For the first time I really think the customers are leading the industry in demand for environmentally-friendly vehicles and we all have to listen to them. We have to look at where the technology is taking us, how we can package it more attractively and economically while making sure our cars remain fun to drive.”

A step in this direction is the Honda SHS concept unveiled at Geneva. The Small Hybrid Sports is a coupe design study – a fast and fun car which comes with electric as well as petrol power.

Honda sold 3,500 hybrid models across Europe last year and this number is expected to soar to 10,000 in 2007 – around 2,000 in the UK alone.

Keir added: “We are working on getting as many hybrids as we can from the factory in Japan, but we are still going to have a lot of disappointed customers.”