Increased production at Honda’s UK plant
in Swindon has helped Honda America to its
ninth straight year of record sales.

Honda
Studio E concept

The Swindon plant supplies the USA with
the CR-V sports utility vehicle and Civic
Si – the US’s equivalent of the Type-R
in Europe.


Sales of the CR-V were up 24% in 2002 to
146,256 units, said Tom Elliott, executive
vice president of America Honda Motor, speaking
at the North American International Motor
Show in Detroit.


“Extra capacity at our UK plant has allowed
that growth and the CR-V is now the best-selling
entry level SUV in the States.”


The success of the CR-V and the Civic helped
Honda achieve sales of more than 1.18 million
vehicles in 2002. “Our target for 2003 is
1.35 million – a tenth straight year
of record sales,” said Elliott.


Biggest increase came from sales of light
trucks or sports utilities – vehicles
like the CR-V. “Ten years ago we didn’t
sell any light trucks,” said Elliott. “Last
year we sold over 400,000.”


Latest model to join the Honda family in
the US is the Element, a funky SUV which
went on sale at the end of December. Interest
in the Element, developed and built in the
US, has been huge and in the first week,
1,000 were sold. “Our target for the full
year is 50,000 sales,” Elliott said. Interest
in the Element is so strong that it “might”
be considered as a possible replacement
for the HR-V in Europe.


The success of the Element produced the
panel-sided Studio E concept, unveiled at
the show on Monday. It is built around the
needs and lifestyle of a club DJ, transforming
the outdoors-minded Element into the ultimate
mobile entertainment platform complete with
onboard personal computer for mixing music
and a 42-inch plasma screen display. There
are 11 speakers producing 800 watts of sound.
There is a bench front seat and two rear
seat pods that flip down from the sides.


The Studio E is powered by a 2.4 litre
four-cylinder engine producing 190 bhp and
with a six-speed manual transmission.


There are no plans to put the Studio E
into production, said Elliott. “But if there’s
enough interest, who knows?”