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Honda finally throws in the towel on the Insight

Honda’s second generation Insight was developed to take on Toyota’s Prius head-to-head. The company had previously counted on its Civic Hybrid to compete with the Prius, but even Honda admitted that the Civic’s plebian design wasn’t “extreme enough” to capture the attention of buyers; hence the Insight.
However, even with a more blob-like design akin to the Prius, Honda’s efforts with the second generation Insight still weren’t enough to tackle the hybrid sales king. It also didn’t help that the Insight was only marginally cheaper, quite a bit smaller, and got worse fuel economy than the Prius. And once the cheaper Prius c was released to the market, it was pretty much game over.

Honda has seen the writing on the wall, and according to a new report from Bloomberg, the company will end production of the Insight this month. Yuka Abe, a spokesman for the company, declined to comment on if another “low cost” hybrid will fill its place in the lineup at a later date.
Honda has only sold roughly 280,000 Insights globally since the first generation model launched in 1999. In comparison, Toyota has sold nearly 3.2 million Prii since its [Japanese] introduction in 1997. 
Even more telling are the U.S. sales figures. In 2013 alone, Toyota managed to sell 234,228 Prii (Prius, Prius c, Prius v) — nearly enough to cover the entire production run of the Insight. Honda sold just 4,802 Insights and 4,550 CR-Z hybrids for all of 2013 in the U.S. market.

Source: Bloomberg

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The first gen started it all
By Sivar on 2/26/2014 10:30:24 AM , Rating: 3
While Honda didn't do so well in the market, the 1st-gen Insight was not only the first widely available hybrid car, it also had better gas mileage than any Prius or the current Insight. A friend of mine with such a car, despite it being quite old, got over 70MPG average (mostly city), and regularly hit 80 average while driving carefully.

Why do current hybrids not compare?
I don't know, but I can think of two likely reasons:
1) The 1st-gen Insight was made largely out of aluminum, which made it might lighter but much more expensive to manufacture.

2) It was only a 2-seater.

RE: The first gen started it all
By TheDoc9 on 2/26/2014 10:40:34 AM , Rating: 2
Wow, that's pretty sad that they took such a step back. Maybe it wasn't marketed properly.

RE: The first gen started it all
By Flunk on 2/26/2014 11:22:32 AM , Rating: 3
It was a huge commercial failure because it was hugely expensive, tiny, only had 2 seats, had no cargo space and was (in most people's opinion at the time) hideous.

RE: The first gen started it all
By Spuke on 2/26/2014 11:57:25 AM , Rating: 3
A blind man could see this cars failure before the 1st one was sold.

RE: The first gen started it all
By Nagorak on 2/27/2014 12:25:39 AM , Rating: 2
It wasn't a failure though. It was never meant to be a mass market car. It was really just a tech demo, as others have said.

RE: The first gen started it all
By protomech on 2/26/2014 11:31:04 AM , Rating: 2
The Prius was available a couple of years before the Insight in Japan .. but a couple years later when both hybrids were released in the US, the Insight was released slightly before the Prius.

I have a 1st gen Insight as well, 5 speed manual.

Compared to the 1st gen Insight, the current Prius is 1200 pounds heavier, 5" higher, 2" wider, and isn't able to taper as smoothly in the back.

And while the highway mileage is phenomenal, particularly if you can maintain 55-60 mph, the overall mileage is not quite as good for typical drivers.

Consider Fuelly: real-world driving for the 2010+ Prius is about 47 mpg, the 2000-2006 Insight averages around 60 mpg.

RE: The first gen started it all
By TheEquatorialSky on 2/26/2014 11:54:42 AM , Rating: 2
The original insight was a technology demonstrator. They debuted for $18k+ at a time when gas was near historic lows at ~$1 gallon. It served a role analogous to the Acura NSX, demonstrating Honda's engineering prowess and helping to drum up good will for the company. Like the NSX, they lost money on every single one.

Other than high price and catering to a market niche (2 seat, manual, ugly, harsh ride), the car was also beset by unreliable battery packs, a hybrid system that would occasionally "recalibrate" and a complex emissions system that was expensive to repair.

Stripping off the mirrors, rear wiper and antenna left a futuristic, sleek looking automobile that got 80mpg @ 65mph. It's an awesome, landmark design... but not very practical.

RE: The first gen started it all
By lagomorpha on 2/26/2014 2:05:00 PM , Rating: 2
They debuted for $18k+ at a time when gas was near historic lows at ~$1 gallon.

$18k in 1999 is $25,273 in 2014 dollars. For a slow 2 seater that has two tiny back wheels located closer together.

By TheEquatorialSky on 2/26/2014 2:30:57 PM , Rating: 2
The rear wheels are the same size as the front. Also, many cars have different track widths front to rear, but not usually as pronounced as the Insight. It's only an issue with automatic car washes and driving in rutted snow.

I also wouldn't call the car slow... more like acceptably fast. Many people who spent the high asking price were heavy commuters (20k+ miles/year) that probably saw a decent ROI as gas prices increased dramatically from 1999-2008. The rest were car enthusiasts who appreciated efficiency over horsepower.

Very few people would call the car practical or a sales success... but it was never intended to be either.

RE: The first gen started it all
By Nagorak on 2/27/2014 12:28:47 AM , Rating: 2
Obviously you've never driven an Insight. With the integrated motor assist it can easily beat most cars off the line at the stoplight, certainly most automatics. It has a small engine, but with the electric motor it can accelerate pretty quickly. Sure, it's not a sports car, but I would describe it as small and nimble, rather than slow.

RE: The first gen started it all
By on 2/28/2014 4:06:22 AM , Rating: 2
Um, no. The Insight cannot move from a standing stop on electric power alone. The gas engine needs to be running to get the Insight to move, and the electric motor only provides 15hp of additional power, and it is not geared directly to the drivewheels like the Prius 75hp traction motor is-- The Honda IMA electric motor is sandwiched between the transmission and the engine block so the electric motor still needs to send its power through the CVT belts, pulleys, and the fluid-coupling torque converter with all of the efficiency losses through those stages. and it feels slower accelerating than the bigger and heavier Prius.

Which is why I got rid of my 2011 Insight after just 1 year and bought a 2012 Prius instead, and I have never been happier.

RE: The first gen started it all
By Nagorak on 3/15/2014 4:16:18 AM , Rating: 2
I wasn't talking about the 2011 Insight, I was talking about the original Insight. Maybe this is the source of our disagreement/confusion, if we're not even speaking of the same care.

The two Insights aren't really comparable as the original was made out of aluminum and weighed probably half as much as the new version. True, neither can move on electric alone, but the original Insight was small and light enough that it was quite agile.

As far as the new Insight, I have no idea how it performs, but I have no doubt that you are correct that it is inferior to the Prius.

RE: The first gen started it all
By Nagorak on 2/27/2014 12:20:10 AM , Rating: 2
The Insight succeeded mostly based off of its non-hybrid engineering. Honda's hybrid tech simply has never been as good as Toyota's. With the Insight being built out of aluminum it was incredibly light (not having a back seat also helped). On the freeway it can get 75 mpg (manual version), but the reality is it would get almost as good gas mileage with no hybrid tech. On the freeway the hybrid assist only helps when accelerating or going up a big hill, otherwise the gas engine just does all the work.

Of course, city mileage would be a fair bit lower without autostop, regenerative braking and acceleration assist. However, I'm almost certain a non-hybrid Insight would still get better city fuel economy than anything else currently on the market that isn't a hybrid.

Fit Hybrid
By lagomorpha on 2/26/2014 10:14:01 AM , Rating: 3
declined to comment on if another “low cost” hybrid will fill its place in the lineup at a later date.

The second gen Insight was a joke. Honda should just bring the Fit Hybrid here.

RE: Fit Hybrid
By bug77 on 2/26/2014 1:01:52 PM , Rating: 2
Don't worry about it, these announcements usually mean there's a rebadge/rework in the pipeline already.

RE: Fit Hybrid
By Jeffk464 on 2/26/2014 1:08:06 PM , Rating: 2
Don't know why unless Honda is a gluten for punishment, they have a horrible history on hybrids. They should just go Mazda's route and make their best sellers as super efficient as possible.

RE: Fit Hybrid
By Reclaimer77 on 2/26/2014 2:54:25 PM , Rating: 1
Agree. The Insight failed because the hybrid market isn't big enough anyway.

Let Toyota own that market. Everything else they make sucks anyway. Just get back to making great cars, Honda!

Also give V-Tech the boot or make it more competitive. Right now it has all the lag of a turbo, but none of the performance.

RE: Fit Hybrid
By Vytautas on 2/26/2014 3:58:28 PM , Rating: 2
Generally in your posts you are loudmouthed and quite extreme in your views, but saying that everything else toyota makes sucks is just plain ignorant and stupid. Sorry, reclaimer, you kind of lost any cred you may have with me for knowing anything at all about car manufacturers and cars in general with those words.

You know toyota is also lexus and daihatsu? You won't like daihatsu either, because it's the small car division of toyota, same as lexus is the luxury car division, but they are all very solid brands. Toyota cars (at least the ones I have used personally) usually have a harder (meaning sportier and more resistant) suspension and generally make excelent an realiable cars. I really can't understand what are your gripes about toyota. There is a reason toyota has the largest market share worldwide.
Yes the stereotypical USA resident likes large overgrown cars (so they can fit in better their overweight mass in them) with a suspension that makes the car feel more like a ship than an actual car with the bad handling characteristics that go along with this "feature". I may profoundly dislike automatics and such "floaty" suspensions that are typical in "american" cars, but I won't say that all such cars suck. There is a market for them, so surely a lot of people appreciate those characteristics I hate.
Most of the designs you usually appreciate (I base my opinion on a few links and car models you have provided in previous posts as examples of your preferences) are somewhat ugly for me and I suppose to a lot of other people. Conversely the designs you deem "absolutely" ugly may not be such for others. Paraphrasing Yoda: "Your opinion does not reality make".

It all depends on the market and purpose for the car. For example right now there is no sturdier and better SUV (real SUV, not the city ones that are SUVs only in name)than the FJ70 at that price point. Even the FJcruiser is a disappointment in this aspect (using the city car like toyota4runner platform and all).

If I wanted a luxury car, I would love to get my hands on a lexus. You may like Honda, but I personally dislike their body designs. Nissan has good body designs, but they are much less reliable than Toyota vehicles. GM vehicles are or have been at least relatively unreliable, Fords are a little better, but not by much. Both are to Toyotas like opels compared to bmws, or mercedes if you wanted an European car comparison. Of course this is just my personal experience in demanding off-road conditions. Like the opel cars in Europe (which are prone to rusting and break much faster than their bmw, volkswagen, audi and mercedes counterparts, but their replacement parts are very cheap) GMs (including chevrolet and all the GMs' subbrands) are unrealiable but relatively cheap to repair, at least where I live. So they do fit a certain market, that's why GM is the second largest car company in the world after Toyota.

To make this short, your opinions are not facts and next time you should think a little before posting such bullshit.

RE: Fit Hybrid
By Reclaimer77 on 2/26/2014 5:03:18 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry, reclaimer, you kind of lost any cred you may have with me

Do I even know you?

And look, I was typing that on my phone and had to be brief. Toyota doesn't "suck" literally. They're just kind of...meah. None of their top sellers appeal to me, and they've killed off pretty much every cool car they ever made.

Sorry you took is so amazingly personal...

RE: Fit Hybrid
By Vytautas on 2/26/2014 5:25:25 PM , Rating: 2
Nothing personal. It's just that absolutes are a form of expression for the weak minded or people without arguments. I'm usually a lurker, but seeing such a stupid position expressed by someone I usually think is a reasonable and intelligent person made me post my previous message. In this last message you have been more cogent, saying that toyota vehicle usually don't appeal to you, which is quite different from "toyota vehicles suck", which is obviously false (them being the most popular car brand on the planet). If you were someone like Tony, I wouldn't have bothered.

RE: Fit Hybrid
By Reclaimer77 on 2/26/2014 5:33:39 PM , Rating: 2
Yes the stereotypical USA resident likes large overgrown cars (so they can fit in better their overweight mass in them)

I especially liked how it's was cool for you to say this, but I'M the offensive one for saying 'Toyota sucks' :)

I think we're more alike than you think hehe.

For the record I own two Impreza's (RS and STI), fairly small cars, and I'm not 'overgrown'.

RE: Fit Hybrid
By Vytautas on 2/26/2014 6:26:16 PM , Rating: 2
quote: Yes the stereotypical USA resident likes large overgrown cars (so they can fit in better their overweight mass in them)

I especially liked how it's was cool for you to say this, but I'M the offensive one for saying 'Toyota sucks' :)

You are possibly right :). Although you should note I said "stereotypical". We all know that stereotypes are not absolutes, just tendencies, sometimes even exaggerations of the truth. But american cars, or cars designed for americans DO share some rather common characteristics (like being very BIG, having "floating" suspensions and almost all having automatic gearboxes) which is actually what I meant.

RE: Fit Hybrid
By Spuke on 2/26/2014 10:03:53 PM , Rating: 2
Yes the stereotypical USA resident likes large overgrown cars
Ignorance abounds.

The vast majority of cars sold here are not "large overgrown".

RE: Fit Hybrid
By pandemonium on 2/28/2014 6:32:14 AM , Rating: 2
Wait, Vtec has lag that of turbo and no performance gain? What are you talking about?

I've yet to hit Vtec, on several different iterations of it, only to feel lag and no performance gains...

Me thinks you need to take a ride with me sometime, lol.

RE: Fit Hybrid
By Samus on 2/26/2014 9:45:15 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, Honda has a "horrible history on hybrids"...

Except inventing them, of course.

RE: Fit Hybrid
By Nagorak on 2/27/2014 12:12:20 AM , Rating: 2
Honda's hybrid technology just isn't as good as Toyota's. That's the major problem. The first generation Insight was a great car, in my opinion (granted it's a two seater). However, the reason it's great is due to engineering (aluminum body and extremely aerodynamic shape). The hybrid part was never its strong point. The first gen Insight would have gotten great gas mileage even as an ICE only car. Unfortunately, the Insight was basically a loss leader, as Honda lost something like $13,000 on each one.

With the second gen Insight they gave up all of the great engineering, while still having sub-par hybrid technology. That meant it was simply worse than the Prius in every way, except for price.

That being said, the Insight appears to have a fair amount more internal space than Prius C. Prius C is just too small unless you don't really want to use the back seats, in which case you may as well have a first gen Insight.

By Flunk on 2/26/2014 11:24:39 AM , Rating: 2
I hope they don't discontinue the CR-Z. I really think a small displacement conventional version would sell. The fuel economy would be good and the Hyundai Veloster has proven that people will buy a car like that.

By Jeffk464 on 2/26/2014 1:10:58 PM , Rating: 2
I was thinking the CR-Z is a great commuter car since nobody bought them I wonder if they have a low resale value, a 5 year old one might be a steal.

By Philippine Mango on 2/26/2014 2:27:23 PM , Rating: 2
If Honda had just taken the first Generation Insight and tuned it up a bit, I think it would a better car than the CR-Z. CR-Z is too heavy weighing 200lbs more than the Prius C and 300lbs less than the full size Prius! Put a 1.5L engine in the 1st generation Insight body and you'll have a pretty fast hatchback with great fuel economy.

By TheEquatorialSky on 2/26/2014 2:41:30 PM , Rating: 2
Why not just buy a Fit?

IMO, the CR-Z should have dropped the hybrid pretense. Who wants to buy a hybrid (and the attendant complexity) if it doesn't get exceptional gas mileage? The CRX-SI was very popular; make a worthy successor!

Practical hatchback --> Fit
Sporty hatchback --> CR-Z

By Reclaimer77 on 2/26/2014 2:49:13 PM , Rating: 1
Or just get a Mazda 3, which doesn't look gay. Gets 40mpg without batteries, isn't tiny, and driving it is fun or at least not anaemic.

By TheEquatorialSky on 2/26/2014 5:52:12 PM , Rating: 2
Or just get a Mazda 3, which doesn't look gay.


By Jeffk464 on 2/26/2014 7:10:50 PM , Rating: 2
Yup, the mazda 3 is pretty tough to beat for a fun, high quality commuter car. The 2.5 L, which is a must have, even gets incredible mileage.

By Reclaimer77 on 2/26/2014 7:20:39 PM , Rating: 2
It's interior blows away everything in it's class too. Compare a Honda Fit to a Mazda 3, it's just embarrassing.

Have you driven the 2.5 and the Skyactive? See, my girlfriend has appointed me to pick out a new car for her. I think the Mazda 3 would be perfect for her, but I don't want to drive something with no guts hehehe. So hmmmm 40 MPG perfect for her, 33 MPG with more power perfect for ME!

Argh it's tough :P

By Spuke on 2/26/2014 10:07:39 PM , Rating: 2
Bah! Just get her the slow, economical one. My wife drives a 4cyl X1 and it's still too much power.

By Jeffk464 on 2/26/2014 7:18:44 PM , Rating: 2
Substitute "you're average chick would call cute" for gay, and you have a point.

By Dr of crap on 2/26/2014 10:47:14 AM , Rating: 2
So making a copy of your competition and not making it better,
and it just wouldn't sell......Hmmmmm.

Just can't see the problem here!

RE: Hmmm
By Solandri on 2/26/2014 3:37:39 PM , Rating: 2
Nobody copied anything. All the automakers were independently working on partial-zero and zero-emission vehicles in the late 1990s to meet California's zero-emission vehicle mandate. California basically said a certain percentage of the vehicles you sold in California had to be PZEV and ZEV by 1999, or you wouldn't be allowed to sell cars in California anymore.

California represented (and still represents) the largest single automobile regulatory market, so nearly every automaker started projects to make compliant vehicles. There were a couple performance luxury brands which bowed out, but all the major automakers worked on designing these vehicles. This was also why GM made the EV1 - to meet the ZEV requirement. (And also why GM destroyed them. Just as the ZEV requirement was about to kick in, the EV1 was the only working ZEV in production. GM stood to make a fortune licensing it to other automakers. But then California reneged and dropped the ZEV requirement, saying PZEV hybrids would be enough, rendering GM's billion dollar investment worthless overnight.)

RE: Hmmm
By Nagorak on 2/27/2014 12:31:47 AM , Rating: 2
GM rendered their own investment worthless by crushing them. They hated electric cars and couldn't get rid of them fast enough. It was a huge blunder on their part, and just another example of the shortsighted attitude that resulted in them going bankrupt a few years later.

RE: Hmmm
By Solandri on 2/27/2014 3:38:12 AM , Rating: 2
Right. Because crushing cars destroys engineering knowledge. Not.

GM crushed the cars so California couldn't profit from their double-cross. California dangled the carrot in front of GM to entice them to build the EV-1. Then when GM was just about to grab the carrot, California pulled it away. GM did what anyone would have done after being treated like that. If I tell you I'll pay you $100 if you build me a birdhouse, then just as you finish building it I tell you I'm not gonna pay you, but since you already have this birdhouse can you give it to me anyway? What are you going to tell me? That's right: F-you.

GM still retained all the fruit of their investment - knowledge, research data, and design expertise from developing the EV-1. It turned out not to help them much because battery technology advanced in the next 10 years (spurred by laptop battery design) to render lead-acid batteries obsolete for EVs.

RE: Hmmm
By TheEquatorialSky on 2/27/2014 7:07:19 AM , Rating: 2
GM didn't really develop the EV-1. It was a derivative of the Impact electric car, designed by Paul MacReady's Aerovironment. The heart of the car, its 3-phase power inverter, was designed by Alan Cocconi. He left Aerovironment to start a company called AC Propulsion to develop electric drive systems and demonstration vehicles (tZero, eBox). Tesla licensed his electric drive for their Lotus-engineered roadster.

The EV-1 was powered by both lead acid and, in later/upgraded models, NiMH. Apart from developing a BMS, the move to Li-Ion batteries isn't that complex.

RE: Hmmm
By Nagorak on 3/15/2014 4:27:50 AM , Rating: 2
All of the car manufacturers lobbied heavily against the ZEV mandate. So, in the end they got what they wanted.

Also, how exactly did crushing the cars hurt California? A little over 1000 EV1s weren't more than a drop in the bucket out of California's 10s of millions of cars.

They could have simply sold those cars off. I'm sure there were enough people out there who would have bought them as a collectors item. Certainly there were at least a few people who wanted them, who were told they couldn't purchase them. Instead GM just brazenly took them all back from lease and crushed them, generating a lot of bad publicity for itself in the process.

As far as its technology goes, you basically admitted that it ended up being obsolete. But that's no thanks to GM letting it sit for a decade. They could have used their early experience with EVs to build hybrids, like Toyota and Honda did. But, no, they weren't interested in that either. They had a technology lead and they just pissed it away. Now, today, Nissan has an electric car that is as good as anything from GM.

In this whole saga, GM showed themselves to be an incredibly short sighted company, so it's absolutely no surprise they eventually went bankrupt.

RE: Hmmm
By Reclaimer77 on 2/27/2014 12:00:20 PM , Rating: 2
Yes GM "hated" the electric car, which is why they developed the EV-1 in the first place. Because money grows on trees!

Look the EV-1 was monstrously expensive to build, very impracticable, and sucked in a lot of other ways. The consumers were NOT going to go for it.

Just take everything wrong with the Model S and multiply it by ten, then remove anything good left. That was the EV-1. That's why GM 'killed' the electric car.

Apples and...
By Sahrin on 2/26/2014 10:32:46 AM , Rating: 2
A lot of the Insight's problems were technological - in the early days, Toyota was way ahead in the performance of their hybrid system, and it took a long time for Honda to catch up.

Technology matters, but the ultra-conservative Japanese automakers aren't keen to 'race' in that sort of thing, resulting in Honda *still* trailing Toyota in technology, 15 years later.

Design not extreme enough...
By DrApop on 2/26/2014 6:39:40 PM , Rating: 2
If Honda thought the civic didn't have an extreme enough design to compete with the prius so they designed the Insight, they were destine to fail from the get go.

It is NOT the design. If the Civic or the Insight got the same gas mileage and a similar get up and go to compete with the prius it/they would have sold.

Neither had the mileage ratings to compete. It's not about's about mileage and torque.

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