Honda is planning to boost US sales 3% to 1.59m units while Europe volume is seen 11% up at 420,000 units, company president president Takeo Fukui said in a year-end speech in Tokyo on Wednesday.

A new Accord range (different from the US/Asia 'wide body' model) headed for Europe next year will be equipped with an i-DTEC engine, which complies with the Euro 5 emission standard expected to become effective in 2009.

Asia Oceania automobile sales were forecast up 20% to 415,000 units as the new (US-style) Accord introduced in Thailand last month rolls out to other countries in the region.

Fukui made no 2008 forecast for South America but said China sales would rise 17% to 490,000 units.

Overall, the automaker, which is in the midst of expanding production in most major market regions expects record sales this year with volume rising 6% to 3.76m units.

Fukui reiterated that Honda would introduce a new, cheaper dedicated hybrid vehicle in 2009 with a newly developed lightweight and compact IMA (integrated motor assist) system offered "at a more affordable price level base on Honda's efforts to significantly reduce cost".

The worldwide sales plan for this vehicle is approximately 200,000 units annually.

A new sports hybrid, based on the CR-Z shown at the Tokyo motor show in October, will also be sold globally and Honda envisions that hybrid models will account for approximately 10% of its global automobile sales by around 2010.

Honda needs a hybrid kick-start. It withdrew the Accord hybrid from the US after a disappointing 25,000 sales in four years and has more recently dropped the Insight coupe. The Civic Hybrid sedan is a derivative in a bodystyle unpopular in much of Europe and its sales are low in comparison to Toyota's dedicated hybrid Prius hatchback but Fukui indicated stronger competition is planned for Honda's dominant rival in this sector.

Fukui also said North America (in 2009) and Japan would also get the European Accord's new diesel.

Last month, Honda began building a new R&D centre in Sakura, Tochigi, he noted.

Four new models will be launched next year to help revive the flagging Japanese domestic market.