Honda has decided to make India a strategic export hub, with plans for its operations there to begin vehicle shipments to left-hand drive markets in Europe by the end of the year. The automaker had previously adopted a low-key approach to exports from India, but has changed its tack, mainly in part to the economic situation brought about by Covid-19.

Sales in the Indian market has slowed as a result of the pandemic, declining by 44% over the 2019-2020 period. Production capacity is also heavily under-utilised, leading into the change in direction, the Times of India reports.

The new fifth-generation City, which was launched in India last week, will be an integral part of the new export push. In India, the car is available in three trim levels (V, VX and ZX), with a choice of two 1.5 litre four-cylinder engines, an i-VTEC DOHC petrol unit with 121 PS and 145 Nm of torque, and an i-DTEC turbodiesel with 100 PS and 200 Nm.

Previously, the company had been exporting Indian production of the Amaze sedan and WR-V to South Africa and other neighbouring countries, but this will be the first time it will be shipping LHD models to Europe, said Honda Cars India president and CEO Gaku Nakanishi.

“By the end of this year, Honda India will be adding new export destinations and left-hand drive markets for the first time ever. While the company’s primary focus continues to be the domestic market, with this new overseas push we expect the export volumes to almost double in this financial year,” he told the publication.

Honda has two factories in the country, one located in Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh, and the other at Tapukara in Rajasthan. The facilities have a combined producion capacity of 280,000 units.