TOKYO (Reuters) – Honda Motor Co <7267.T> is considering shifting production of its U.S.-bound Fit subcompact cars to Japan from Mexico in a few years, partly due to a new North American trade agreement, two people familiar with the deal told Reuters. Fit cars for export to the United States are now made at Honda’s auto plant in Celaya, Mexico. The Celaya plant also makes HR-V sport utility vehicles (SUVs) for the U.S. market. A Honda spokesman said the company had not made any decisions on Fit production.
The new trilateral deal, which replaces the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), is set to raise the minimum North American content for cars to qualify for duty-free market access to 75 percent from 62.5 percent.
U.S. President Donald Trump wants the deal to shrink the U.S. trade deficit by curbing imports into the United States and boosting production of foreign-branded vehicles there.
But the terms of the trade deal reduce Honda’s incentive to produce the Fit in Mexico for the U.S. and European markets, said the sources, one of whom has direct knowledge of the plan and the other who was briefed on it.
They declined to be identified as the matter was still confidential.
In addition, they said, U.S. consumers are increasingly shifting to SUVs, making it more advantageous for the Mexico plant to build those, rather than subcompacts.
One of the sources said that if Honda decides to shift production, it would come when the company launches its next Fit model in the next few years.
(Reporting by Maki Shiraki; Writing by Ritsuko Ando; Editing by William Mallard and Muralikumar Anantharaman)