After nearly four decades as a staple on Japan's roads, the venerable Honda Civic is nearing the end of its run.

Honda Motor Co. has confirmed to Relaxnews that it will halt production of its longtime flagship sedan before the end of the year. The company estimates that inventory will run out at dealerships in January, although Japan's third-largest car manufacturer was quick to point out that the car will still be built for overseas markets.

"The trend in the Japanese market currently is for small, compact family cars, such as our Honda Fit and the Insight, which are selling well," Tomoko Uchida, a spokeswoman for the company, told Relaxnews.

"In its day, the Civic was famous for its usability, its efficiency and for being environment-friendly, but it has now been surpassed in those areas by our other models so we have decided to focus our efforts in the domestic market on those vehicles," she said.

Another key factor behind phasing the Civic out was declining sales, the company admitted. In October, Honda sold just 182 Civics and 270 of the hybrid versions of the car. In comparison, the company sold more than 14,000 of its Fit cars.

The Civic's heyday was 1975, when 177,000 vehicles were delivered in Japan. In total, more than 3 million Civics have been sold in Japan since the car was first introduced in July 1972 - helped in part by huge advertising campaigns involving such Hollywood stars as Leonardo di Caprio and Jodie Foster.

Globally, Honda sold 609,000 Civics in 2009 and it remains popular in many overseas markets. Sold in 160 nations around the world, the various incarnations of the Civic made it the best-selling car in Canada as recently as 2009 and Honda will continue to make models for the export market.

The gas-hybrid variant will still be manufactured at the company's Suzuka factory, in central Japan, while 13 overseas plants also produce the car.

The clear trend in Japan is for more compact and environment-friendly vehicles, with Toyota Motor Corp.'s Prius hybrid the best-selling vehicle in 2009, selling 277,485 units. Suzuki Motor Corp.'s WagonR minicar came in second last year, selling 193,430 units, while Honda's Fit - known in Europe as the Jazz - was third on the list with sales of 173,154 cars.



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