Honda Motor Co. Ltd. is pulling back on plans to launch its Acura luxury-vehicle channel in Japan.

In a midyear state-of-the-company speech, CEO Takeo Fukui says Honda now will delay the introduction of its Acura brand in Japan for “two years or so from its original plan of fall 2008.”

Fukui blames the delay on market weakness and says, “I don’t expect a big change in this tough environment.”

Through May, Honda car sales were down 5.3% in Japan, where the overall market is off 9.7%, according to Ward’s data. Honda’s minivehicle sales fell 11.2% in a sector that is up 2.3% overall.

Honda completed an integration of its existing sales channels in Japan into one, called Honda Cars, in March 2006, and Fukui says the auto maker will continue to focus on bolstering those operations.

“We are currently making progress in strengthening our sales channels through various initiatives, including re-establishing an optimal sales network suitable for a 1-channel approach, enlarging the dealership locations in metropolitan areas, and opening of new dealership locations which incorporate the new concept of Honda Cars,” Fukui says. “Honda will near completion of the changeover of its integrated dealer network to the identity of Honda Cars and establishment of sales network in metropolitan areas by this fall (and) work toward solidification of the Honda brand and devote intensive efforts to expand sales.”

Acura sales in the U.S. are off 4.9% so far in 2007, with car sales down 27.5%, including a 38.5% plunge for the brand’s flagship RL sedan. Truck sales are up 61.9% thanks mostly to the introduction of the new RDX, but its 12,283 units through June represent only about half the volume American Honda Motor Co. Inc. officials expected.

Fukui also reveals Honda will launch a completely redesigned Fit model this fall. Fit sales since the car’s launch have reached 2 million units worldwide.

Fukui also reiterated Honda’s plans to add a new plant in Thailand that will double capacity there to 240,000 vehicles by the second half of 2008 and put a new 30,000-unit assembly plant in Argentina by second-half 2009.

In Japan, Honda will add a new assembly plant in Yorii to be operational by 2010. It will launch a new high-quality, high-efficiency manufacturing system that will be rolled out to other Honda operations worldwide, Fukui says. A new engine plant in Ogawa will open in summer 2009 and produce advanced engines in response to increasing demand for fuel-efficient vehicles, he adds.

Meanwhile, Honda subsidiary Yachiyo Industry Co. Ltd. has decided to acquire land adjacent to it Yokkaichi factory for an engine assembly facility for minivehicles. The new plant “will enable the company to achieve synchronous production of automobiles, including the engine and complete automobile, which in turn will help…improve efficiency of production and logistics,” Fukui says.