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Honda to stay with slow-selling Insight, says no hybrid SUV

9851 Views 37 Replies 17 Participants Last post by  Delta Flyer


Honda to stay with slow-selling Insight, says hybrid SUV not in 3-year plan

YUZO YAMAGUCHI | Automotive News
Posted Date: 1/4/05

TOKYO -- Honda Motor Co. has no plans to remodel the poor-selling Insight hybrid.

But it has no plans to kill the two-seater, either, says President Takeo Fukui, because it is the most fuel-efficient car sold in the United States.

"That's an image car with the top fuel economy," he says.

The Insight's U.S. November sales numbered only 5, down from 39 a year earlier. For the 11 months of last year, Honda sold only 575 Insights, a plunge from 1,124 in the year-ago period.

The car was launched in 1999 to demonstrate Honda's fuel-saving technology. It is powered by an electric motor and a three-cylinder gasoline-powered engine.

With a five-speed manual transmission, the Insight achieves 61 mpg in the city and 66 mpg on the highway. That tops the Toyota Prius' 60 mpg in the city and 51 on the highway.

The Prius, which was launched in 2000, has been embraced by environmentally conscious Americans. In the first 11 months of this year, Toyota sold 47,704 Prius units in the United States, more than double the number sold in the same period of the previous year.

Hybrid SUV not in 3-year plan

Unlike Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. has no plans to build hybrid SUVs in the next three years.

"For now, we are not thinking about it" for the three-year plan starting in April, says Honda President Takeo Fukui.

SUV owners care little about fuel economy, Fukui says. "If they look for fuel efficiency," he says, "they could shift to a car."

Fuel-efficient hybrids use gasoline- or diesel-powered engines teamed with an electric motor.

Honda sells the Insight, the company's first hybrid, and hybrid versions of the Accord and Civic.

Fukui added that a hybrid powertrain is "an extremely expensive system," and that Honda can devise cheaper alternatives to save fuel in vehicles. For example, the Odyssey and the hybrid Accord use cylinder deactivation. The 3.5-liter V-6 engine runs on all six cylinders when accelerating and three when cruising.

Honda's reluctance to offer hybrid SUVs contrasts with Toyota's plans. The Lexus RX 400h hybrid is scheduled to go on sale April 15, and the Toyota Highlander hybrid is scheduled to go on sale in June.
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I have to say, I'm a little surprised that Honda will not be putting a hybrid powertrain in a CRV any time soon. I figured that since that vehicle is essentially a Civic platform that they'd probably be putting a hybrid engine in it for the '08 model year (seems like they've been introducing a new hybrid every three years or so, Insight in '99, HCH in '02, Accord Hybrid in '05). That seems also to be a good time because if I'm correct in my timelines, that would be the year Honda would bring out the 3rd generation CRV or maybe the 2nd year of the 3rd generation. Just speculation of course. Maybe the article is intentionally shifting focus away from potential Honda hybrid SUV's so that Honda does not seem to be following Toyota.

As for no Insight replacement, that's kinda a bummer too. At least they basically said that production, albeit at a trickle, will continue for the Insight. At least until Toyota decides to maximize the Prius or something else to best the Insight's chart topping mileage. Once someone knocks the Insight from the top of the mileage heap I would imagine at that time production would end.
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Funny you should mention the CRX, for two reasons. One is that there's been a rumor that Honda will indeed bring a new CRX to market, it had such a cult following and the cars, the newest now more than ten years old, still has a fairly large following and respect from pocket rocket aficianados. Two, when I first got my Insight one of the most common questions I got, especially from others in Honda's, was to ask if the Insight was a new CRX (similar in appearance in many respects).

So, it would make a lot of sense to me if Honda were to decide to do a new CRX to somehow roll the Insight into that line. I'd love it if Honda would bring back the CRX. Heck, I've thought about buying a late model Si if I could find one in good shape. It was the car that I drew in my notebooks when I was in high school. My uncle had one and I thought it had to be the greatest car ever! Until I bought my Insight!
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