Honda Announces Hybrid Fit
By Brendan Moore
It looks like Honda will be the first to market with a subcompact hybrid. At a press conference in Tokyo this morning, Honda announced that they will produce a hybrid version of their popular Fit (Jazz in the rest of the world) hatchback. The plan is to offer the hybrid option at no more than $2000 USD on the third-generation Fit.
“The Fit has great fuel efficiency to begin with, and if you put in a hybrid, it’s going to get even better,” Honda Motor Co. president Takeo Fukui said while announcing the car at a mid-year news conference. “So with crude oil prices going up this much, I think a Fit hybrid is now starting to make sense.”
Since the second-generation Fit will not show up here until late 2008 calendar year as a 2009 model, and the third-generation platform is not expected to show up until a few years later, that leaves more than enough time to reach that (additional) $2000 price point for the hybrid. The Fit Hybrid is probably due for an appearance in 2015.
The Fit already gets excellent fuel economy and a hybrid version should be good for at least another 20 mpg over the 28/34 average mpg of the current model. Since the Fit starts at an MSRP of $13,950 USD, another $2000 gets you a great car with great fuel economy for well under $18,000. It’s too bad for Honda that they don’t have it to sell right now; they could sell a few million over the next several years easily.
In other news from the same press conference, Honda Motor Co. said they will retail a brand-new, improved and affordable gas-electric hybrid in the U.S., Japan and Europe starting in early 2009. This new hybrid signals a shift for Honda, who until very recently did not seem interested in matching Toyota in terms of hybrid offerings.
The company’s president, Takeo Fukui, told journalists that “green” cars, especially hybrids, are going to be a focus of Honda’s market strategy for the next three years, starting this fiscal year that began April 1. “Hybrids have drawn attention for their image, but time has come to go to the next step,” he said, noting that Honda was serious about selling hybrids in large numbers and at mass-market prices.
Fukui did not allow as to what the price of this new vehicle for 2009 might be. But he did say the new hybrid will be a five-door hatchback seating five passengers, and it will showcase new Honda technology that reduces the size and weight of the hybrid system in order to reduce overall vehicle weight, resulting in increased fuel efficiency. But it won’t have next generation lithium-ion batteries. Fukui said lithium-ion technology still hasn’t overcome safety and cost hurdles.
Fukui said that Honda plans to sell 500,000 hybrids per year sometime after 2010. Toyota, by contrast, is targeting annual hybrid sales of 1 million vehicles in the early 2010s, led by the Prius, which has completely dominated the hybrid Civic in the marketplace, making it look like a pipsqueak in terms of sales.
To expand hybrid sales, Honda will introduce a new sporty hybrid based on the CR-Z model, a Civic hybrid and the previously-mentioned hybrid model of the Fit subcompact, in addition to the new hybrid going on sale next year, Fukui said.
Honda, Japan’s No.2 automaker, states that it expects to sell more than 4.5 million cars and 18 million motorcycles worldwide in 2010. Last year, it sold 3.767 million cars and 13.48 million motorcycles. Unlike other automakers that sell in the U.S., Honda’s sales have not been dragged down by the big drop in U.S. new-vehicle sales.
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