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Honda CR-Z

Honda Insight

Civic Hybrid
Honda's hybrids serve up a big dish of disappointment

Last week we brought you news that Honda is introducing a cheaper trim level for its Insight, one of the brand's two "hybrid only" nameplates. As we noted in that article, the lower price of entry doesn't help that fact that the vehicle is still far inferior to the more expensive Toyota Prius in a number of categories (size, performance, fuel economy, available features, etc).

A new article over at Automotive News sheds some light into just how poorly Honda's hybrids models are doing in comparison to the competition and the company's own forecasts. Take for example the sporty-ish CR-Z hybrid which was introduced earlier this year. Honda set a sales forecast of 15,000 units per year for the vehicle. However, through the first five months of the model's availability, Honda only managed to shove 4,373 CR-Zs off dealer lots -- another 3,000 cars are in inventory.

The CR-Z starts at $19,200 and gets 35 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway (the numbers fall to 31/37 if you opt for a 6-speed manual instead of the CVT). For comparison, the much loved (not to mention better performing and better handling) Mini Cooper manages 29/37 without the need for a hybrid powertrain and has a starting price of $19,400.

Perhaps even more disappointing is the aforementioned Insight. According to Automotive News, Honda forecast sales of 60,000 to 80,000 units per year for the 5-seat hybrid. Instead, Honda has only managed to sell 19,325 Insights through November. For comparison, Toyota sold 125,289 units of its more expensive and more fuel efficient Prius for the same time period.
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Honda's other hybrid model, the Honda Civic Hybrid, has also failed in the marketplace. Honda managed to sell 14,648 Civic Hybrids through the first 11 months of 2009. However, sales of the model are down 55.9 percent to just 6,430 through the first 11 months of 2010.

Analysts and dealerships are pointing fingers at a multitude of problems at Honda for the poor showings not just with its hybrids, but with the rest of its more conventional models. Some point to Honda's outdated inventory system, while others say that company simply has a stale vehicle portfolio.

Another popular criticism is "lowest-common-denominator styling," according to TrueCar VP Jesse Toprak. "The growing Gen Y demographic is more discriminating with their taste," Toprak added. "Honda has become a safe purchase and developed a boring-car image, especially in Los Angeles and Florida, where opinions are formed for the rest of the nation."

Honda has indeed taken more than a few hits in the enthusiast community for losing its way with bland – or in the case of the Accord Crosstour, offensive – styling including many models from the upmarket Acura brand.

But perhaps in the case of CR-Z and Insight, it simply comes down to product. The CR-Z is marketed as a sporty hybrid when it isn't really all that sporty and its fuel efficiency (especially in “sporty” manual transmission trim) isn't really all that impressive. Likewise, the Prius casts a long shadow over the Insight when it comes to fuel efficiency despite being a larger and more powerful vehicle.

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Doesn't fit
By Wererat on 12/7/2010 8:29:08 AM , Rating: 5
The problem for Honda is that both the CR-Z and Insight are bested by their own cheaper, roomier, and faster standard-combustion Fit.

I don't think the CR-Z and Insight are bad - I particularly like the CR-Z styling - but people love value, and anyone looking for good mileage and reasonable performance who walks in looking at Insight or CR-Z will end up with a Fit unless they simply *must* have a hybrid.

RE: Doesn't fit
By morgan12x on 12/7/10, Rating: 0
RE: Doesn't fit
By Gio6518 on 12/7/2010 12:28:29 PM , Rating: 2
And for where I live (West Texas), front wheel drive doesn't sell.

Absolutely true, I moved down south couldn't take the cold anymore. Up north you dont see many performance rear wheel drive vehicles, and down here you don't see many hybrids.

I had a Honda Civic hybrid, even though i was getting great gas mileage, I really hated driving that vehicle. I had it for a year and couldn't take it anymore. I much rather suffer a loss of MPG and enjoy my commute or travel.

RE: Doesn't fit
By Samus on 12/7/2010 4:18:28 PM , Rating: 2
Hybrid technology doesn't make sense if you do mostly highway driving. The only thing relevent about say, the Prius, at highway speed is the low drag coefficient...which happens to be identical to a 2010 Ford Fusion (i4/v6/hybrid)

However, an electric car makes a lot of sense in the south, which is why San Diego, CA is a primary launch site for the Nissan Leaf AND the Chevy Volt.

RE: Doesn't fit
By mcnabney on 12/7/2010 9:41:39 AM , Rating: 3
I've driven a Fit. It doesn't 'fit' any of those descriptions. The Fit is a very good subcompact, but 'roomier' and 'faster' are not good descriptors under any circumstances.

Honda's weak attempts failed because they did not appeal to hybrid shoppers because they didn't deliver 'hybrid' mileage. They tried to appeal to non-hybrid shoppers and standard combustion engines were just as good with better performance and price.

RE: Doesn't fit
By Flunk on 12/7/2010 9:46:16 AM , Rating: 2
Have you driven a CR-Z? The Fit actually IS a lot bigger. The CR-Z doesn't even have a back seat.

RE: Doesn't fit
By BailoutBenny on 12/7/2010 11:56:37 AM , Rating: 4
I own a Fit, it is way better than the CR-Z.

The Fit does 0-60 in 8.3 seconds. That is faster than the CR-Z at over 9.

The Fit has massive cargo space, 57.3 cu.ft. The CR-Z has 25.1 cu.ft.

The Fit is 4 thousand dollars cheaper for the base model.

Mileage is not bad. EPA estimates on the Fit are lower, but real world mileage reports for the Fit are hovering around 36-40mpg. I myself am sitting at 37.2 average mpg according to the gauge on my dashboard.

Also, besides being faster, roomier and cheaper than the CR-V, I'd say it handles the same or better. The Fit is much sportier than the CR-Z, it just doesn't look it.

Back in the early 90's, Honda had the vtec-e motor that had real world mileage of between 50-60mpg. It was a 1.5l 95hp engine. If Honda could use the motor today with an electric hybrid powertrain, it would probably get close to 80mpg done right, if not more. Current emissions standards would probably never let that motor see the light of day in a current implementation, however. Emissions standards are just one of the ways good, reliable technology is quashed to keep competition and innovation to a minimum and directed in favor of a few government chosen industries.

RE: Doesn't fit
By Solandri on 12/7/2010 1:52:53 PM , Rating: 4
Mileage is not bad. EPA estimates on the Fit are lower, but real world mileage reports for the Fit are hovering around 36-40mpg. I myself am sitting at 37.2 average mpg according to the gauge on my dashboard.

One more time: EPA estimated MPG are not an estimate of the MPG you will get when driving a car. It's an estimate of the mileage of all cars driven the same way over the same course, thus letting you compare the mileage of any two different cars.

RE: Doesn't fit
By BailoutBenny on 12/7/2010 3:57:37 PM , Rating: 2
I know what the estimates are supposed to suggest. The model used for obtaining the estimates is flawed and also doesn't take into account manufacturer under-reporting.

The EPA also has a section where people report their real world mileage, I'd suggest you look there for an accurate portrayal of the mileage you can obtain with a chosen vehicle. Reported real world mileage for the Fit is 36-40MPG.

RE: Doesn't fit
By bah12 on 12/7/2010 4:04:30 PM , Rating: 3

God I hate this fallacy these posters use. This assumption that they get better (or worse) than EPA estimates, but then turn around and compare then to the EPA estimate of the competing car. News flash if you drive well and get better than EPA on one car, it stands to reason the same would happen on the other.

RE: Doesn't fit
By kattanna on 12/7/2010 10:52:00 AM , Rating: 2
i also wonder how much brand recognition has to do with poor sales.

i mean, when one thinks hybrid.. one usually thinks prius

RE: Doesn't fit
By sintaxera on 12/7/2010 12:29:08 PM , Rating: 2
The fact that they took out the back seats on the American CR-Z doesn't help matters either. I bet if dealerships bought the parts from a European supplier and put them back in they would likely sell more. At least then you would have somewhere to put the rugrats.

RE: Doesn't fit
By Reclaimer77 on 12/7/2010 8:25:03 PM , Rating: 3
What the hell has happened to Honda?

Gone are the Prelude and CR-X. The Civic Si is still around, sure, but what happened to the Integra? And my god, what have they done to the Accord!?

Honda has become very boring. Honda used to be on the forefront of delivering practical, economical, yet inspiring cars with personality and style. Now they are the pusher of SUV's, minivans, trucks (seriously wtf, Honda trucks) and a smattering of uninspired Corolla look-a-likes and ugly hybrids. The FIT looks like something a fifth grader designed with crayons and would have never passed for a Honda in the 80's or 90's. Standards appear to have given way, sharply.

RE: Doesn't fit
By YashBudini on 12/7/2010 9:19:41 PM , Rating: 2
I had one of the original Integra's, what a great car.

The 2003 Accord Coupe looked really good. At least new stuff still not Kia fugly.

Me too-ism guarantees boredom.

Not enough hybrid to justify the sacrifices...
By mac2j on 12/7/2010 7:32:58 AM , Rating: 4
The problem with the CR-Z is pretty obvious as is pointed out here - its just not fuel efficient enough to justify the sacrifices in performance.

Even if you don't want a mini-Cooper (they do have some maintenance issues) and you're a die-hard Honda-fan .... you can get a Civic-EX coupe for less money than a CR-Z that gets almost the same mileage ... I think you'd be giving up 3-4 MPG city and getting the same mileage highway.

This thing needed to get >40/45 mpg to justify its existence in its current form or to perform like a real sports coupe at its current mileage rating and it really falls short of both scenarios.

By tastyratz on 12/7/2010 8:29:51 AM , Rating: 2
Absolutely, right now its just a big mixed bowl of each realms mediocrity. a sports car that wont drive sporty, and a hybrid that gets non hybrid mileage. All for around the same price as better equipped alternatives. The only thing it really has going for it is its sharp looks.

I should work for Honda. I could have saved them the embarrassment and told them it wouldn't sell well . What idiot thinks it would?

By namechamps on 12/7/2010 9:37:51 AM , Rating: 3
Bingo. I like my Honda. It is reliable, it gets me from A to B. Maybe I am boring but it works for me.

The CR-Z is targeting a nonexistent market.

too expensive compared to the luxuries for the "get me from A to B crowd".

Too unsporty for the sporty crowd.

Too low fuel economy for the diehard "green" crowd.

Essentially it targets nobody, hence nobody is interested, hence it doesn't sell.

For each of those markets there are better options.

So Honda needs to revamp it. They need to decide what they want it to be. Either it needs to be MUCH more fuel efficient (like 40mpg yet decent performance) or it needs performance maybe using hybrid to keep mpg from completely sucking.

Sad that Honda who has technical side down just completely fails when it comes to designs that people want. Still TCO all 3 Hondas I have owned (Civic, Ridgeline, and my wife's CR-V) have been great so I will keep buying them.

RE: Not enough hybrid to justify the sacrifices...
By DEredita on 12/7/2010 12:17:53 PM , Rating: 2
Isn't the CRZ only a two seater as well. That right there eliminates a huge percentage of customers. I would assume that most buyers of two seater sport(y) cars want performance, and not fuel economy. A two seater also isn't exactly the most practical thing on the road either.

By Dr of crap on 12/7/2010 12:42:35 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, a two seat car NEEDS to be sporty/proformance based.

What I think Honda was trying for was selling the CR-Z to the ones that just needed to get to work and back - two seats is all they need. Problem, the US car consumer just sees two seats and runs away. If they buy a car it needs to be able to go over 300 miles on a tank and haul 4 or more people.

I had a two seater as a single guy, and I would buy another since my kids can drive themselves, but I would NOT buy the CR-Z.
The reason, it sets inbetween what it should be.
It's not sporty enough to be sporty - Civic Si. It's mpg isn't good enough to be a commuter car - Prius much higher mpg.

With the rise of the Mustang and the Camero, if they put the Civic Si engine, minus the hybrid part, in it they could have great sales!

No surprise here
By Madlyb on 12/7/2010 6:45:09 AM , Rating: 2
From the day Honda announced the CR-Z, people were clamoring for a non-Hybrid version and c'mon, a sports car...with a CVT? This screamed boring from day one.

On another note, I like how this site compliments me by thinking that I might be a robot. Alas, that I could join our soon to be robot overlords..., I am sad.

RE: No surprise here
By Doofenshmirtz on 12/7/2010 7:22:55 AM , Rating: 2
somehow 0-60 in 9+ seconds doesn't equate to sporty.

CVT could work as sporty - see nissan maxima (I said sporty, not full sports car).

RE: No surprise here
By retrospooty on 12/7/2010 7:27:31 AM , Rating: 3
More like its "sportish"

Honda post year 2000 = fail

RE: No surprise here
By Keeir on 12/8/2010 3:41:36 PM , Rating: 2
The issue is that a CVT makes is really hard to drive a slow car fast. No one really thought the CR-Z was ever going to be a "fast" car (Sub 7 sec.)

That Maxima your refering to?

290 hp and 261 ft-lb with ~3,500 lb --> 12 lbs/hp and 13 lbs/ft-lb make to very sporty spots for the CVT.

The CRZ at ~120 hp and 120 ft-lb with ~2,800 lbs --> 23 lbs/hp and 23 lbs/ft-lb

I would say the Maxima is held back by the CVT. But its also held back by being FWD, and its suspension. Overall the CVT doesn't handicap the Maxima that much, because of the huge engine which comensates for the CVT suckiness.

RE: No surprise here
By Flunk on 12/7/2010 9:26:45 AM , Rating: 3
A CR-Z with the engine from the Civic Si would sell pretty well (and the fuel economy would be pretty good too). The current version is just stupid. It's a hybrid, but without great fuel savings.

Stupid big 3 in the US
By Ahnilated on 12/7/2010 11:50:34 AM , Rating: 2
I think they should bring the really economic diesels over from the UK that are getting MUCH better mileage then the hybrids here. The VW TDI clean diesel is a step in the right direction but not far enough. There are a lot of people in the US that would buy a good high mileage car and don't care to have a car with 500 hp just to drive to work. The BS that the big 3 car manufacturers are pushing that no one wants Diesel or lower horsepower is a joke.

RE: Stupid big 3 in the US
By MrFord on 12/7/2010 12:44:22 PM , Rating: 2
Name me one manufacturer, beside the Germans, that offers diesel cars in the US. Both Honda and Mazda were talking about offering some models with diesel, but they didn't, citing poor market.

And even for VW/BMW/Mercedes, I'd be very curious to see how many diesels they manage to sell. They are cheaper to operate, but when you factor acquisition and maintenance costs (pump and injectors on a diesel ain't cheap), you need to drive a lot to break even. Like with hybrids.

Its like station wagons, everybody is claiming that they would buy one if it was offered, and complain that the manufacturers don't have them in their lineup. But you can count one one hand the numbers or Jetta station. The Legacy station is somewhat popular, mainly because it's as big as most SUVs. The last big sellers were the like of Taurus and Focus stations, and even they didn't sell all that well.

RE: Stupid big 3 in the US
By 91TTZ on 12/7/2010 3:01:27 PM , Rating: 4
1. The cars from the UK that everybody thinks get so much better gas mileage usually don't really get much better gas mileage. They're getting mislead by the imperial gallon.

2. The big 3 doesn't offer cars that have lower horsepower? All of them have 500 hp? You can get plenty of compact cars from them with good fuel economy.

By carniver on 12/7/2010 4:27:56 PM , Rating: 3
There has been a time when Toyota sold their Prius at a loss, but those times were well worth the cost. They established a strong brand, which gives them the sales volume to sustain their project R&D. The volume also allows them to negotiate the best deal on batteries; Toyota gets the very best NiMH battery yields from Panasonic at the least cost. Now they've went past the break even point and are turning in profits on every Prius sold; despite its more expensive price, however, the Prius is actually a steal for all the technology on it.

For Honda, they didn't want to take a loss on their hybrids. But still they wanted to undercut Toyota on price, so what they did, they cut corners as much as possible! The original HCH motor was already small at 20hp compared to Prius' 50hp+30hp, yet the Insight got an even smaller motor that outputs only 13hp. Despite carrying the name i-VTEC, the engines don't actually have the continuously variable cam phasing that a DOHC i-VTEC has. Whereas the Toyota's system comes with Dual VVT-i, Honda's SOHC i-VTEC has little intake management. Obviously you cannot vary the angle of the intake cam if the exhaust is also controlled by the same camshaft! SOHC iVTEC as found with IMA can only vary the cam profile between 2-3 stages, as in idle, economy and performance. And then, while the HCH has all the 3 stages, the Insight only has 2-stages that being idle and economy. Talk about cutting costs on something already very barebone! The only good thing about Honda's engine is the iDSi dual spark design that can burn fuel more completely for better fuel economy, but it cannot do anything about the lackluster output performance!

So what does Honda need to do? They need to add more value to their hybrids, even if they'll have to sell it at a loss! Build an engine that rivals Toyota in terms of technology instead of cheaping out on it and hope consumers don't notice, give it true horsepower with DOHC iVTEC so it can beat the Prius in 0-60 time. Put in more battery capacity so they'll get rated with higher mpg. Establish the brand and let sales volume balance out their costs, and they'll have a winner!

By goku on 12/8/2010 9:31:06 AM , Rating: 2
Well the part about the engine you wrote is true, your solution to the problem is sort of correct. The problem with the honda hybrid system is so fundamental, that they'd have to completely ditch this IMA stuff in order to make their system work any better. The whole idea of spinning the engine with the IMA (electric motor) in order to run ancillary devices while the car is "idling" is a huge waste of energy. Further more, as you pointed out, the electric motor is pitiful and so it can't be used for low speed driving, losing major potential for improved city fuel economy which makes the point about having a larger battery moot.

The IMA system really is designed for assisting in acceleration due to the nerfed engine design and for stop-start operation where hopefully no fuel is consumed while idling...assuming you don't have the A/C running which most people do. If they're serious about boosting fuel economy and performance in that CR-Z, they'd definitely have to spend more money on that engine.

Good video explaining 3 stage i-VTEC:

(CR-Z only comes with two stage!)

Rumored Non-Hybrid CR-Zs
By jthistle on 12/7/2010 9:42:59 AM , Rating: 2
I saw on Autoblog there is a rumor there will be a 1.6L 160HP NA CR-Z and maybe a turbo 200HP CR-Z Type R. Considering all of the reviews I have read of the CR-Z say it has good handling but no power a 200HP turbo could be interesting. It would go a long way to moving Honda back into the lime light.

By bigbrent88 on 12/7/2010 9:46:35 AM , Rating: 2
I think Honda hybrids are falling into the trap of too cheap too soon. As we all know hybrid systems add some cost to the car and I think Honda engineers were really hoping to hit a low price point with good performance. When they didn't the marketing team was called in to save the day and it hasn't worked.
The CRZ is a good looking design and I understand it handles decently as well, but they should have made it more expensive like sports cars are supposed to be. Bring the CRZ to cost parity with a high end SI, starting mid-high $20k, with real performance with the same mpg. Lets say a 7 second 0-60 and a ~14sec 1/4mi. Then give it 10mpg more than an SI and you have a winner.

got one
By masimons on 12/7/2010 9:57:23 AM , Rating: 2
I bought an Insight in May cause it was cheaper than Prius, and "good enough". Get 44mpg, and its ok. And was between that or Hyundai Sonata. But will trade it in in 2yrs or less.

Earth to Honda
By ciparis on 12/7/2010 10:40:05 AM , Rating: 2
It's the mileage, stupid.

They'll catch on soon
By DEredita on 12/7/2010 12:12:04 PM , Rating: 2
If oil prices continue their upward trend, then I think these vehicles will catch on. Oil jumped from around $75 a barrel just a month and a half ago to nearly $91 today. The price of gasoline for me has jumped up $40-$50 a gallon in that time as well. It happened so fast, that most of the public hasn't noticed, or at least the extra cost hasn't really had enough time to have any effect yet.

I've begun to feel the jump in price, and started changing my driving habits. I'm also thinking of a more fuel efficient vehicle to replace my turbocharged Subaru Forester, which is only averaging 19.8 mpg.

I will admit, I have no interest in either of Honda's hybrids mentioned in this article. But, those new VW Golf TDI models are VERY attractive, with its EPA highway rating of 42 mpg, (Many owners claim to get 50+ mpg on the highway), plus 236 lb feet of torque. Yep, I think this time next year, I have turned already back my Forester at the end of its lease, and be driving around in a vehicle that has a lower monthly payment and costing less than half of what I am paying now to fuel up.

Local dealer clueless
By rickon66 on 12/7/2010 5:38:42 PM , Rating: 2
I don't know if this is a problem nation wide,
but our local Honda dealer acts like there is a shortage of cars. They still add on pin stripes and paint sealent packages at $1500 to $2000 over MSRP. DUH, no thanks!

I wanted a CR-Z... but...
By dajeepster on 12/8/2010 2:43:42 AM , Rating: 2
I wanted a black CR-Z manual with nav. Waited two months for the dealership to get me what I wanted and they couldn't.. nuff said

High-mileage hybrid
By logorhea on 12/8/2010 7:18:16 PM , Rating: 2
For only $34K, I'll take a Lincoln MKZ hybrid, 41 EPA highway, heated seats (I live in the North,) and a lot more cachet.

By YashBudini on 12/7/2010 2:53:32 PM , Rating: 1
"Honda has become a safe purchase and developed a boring-car image, especially in Los Angeles and Florida, where opinions are formed for the rest of the nation."

And what's Toyota without a Celica GT or an MR2? A really exciting car company?

Ever consider that the Prius alone may have saturated the hybrid market around that price range?

This clearly shows..........
By Karma007 on 12/7/10, Rating: -1
RE: This clearly shows..........
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 12/7/2010 7:24:13 AM , Rating: 5
Try breaking the pills in half and only taking half the dosage.

RE: This clearly shows..........
By Karma007 on 12/7/10, Rating: 0
RE: This clearly shows..........
By retrospooty on 12/7/2010 7:37:38 AM , Rating: 2
"Maybe if the cars were better they would sell better."

The rest of what you said is crap, but there may be some truth to this one. The regular Civic gets up to 38mpg with a larger 1.8 liter engine. How can the CRZ have a smaller emgine, plus an electric/hybrid additional engine and get worse mileage? The only logical reason would be that its geared for performance and not mieage efficiency, but... 0=60 in 9 seconds clearly rules that thought out. Its just poorly designed. A hybrid car of this size should either get 45-50mpg, or be faster than stink! CRZ is neither.

RE: This clearly shows..........
By Anoxanmore on 12/7/2010 8:24:58 AM , Rating: 2
Mits needs to bring back the 4G63 and mate it with an electric motor. Mmmm... 35+ MPG on gas alone. :)

They can call it the Mirage Z :-)

RE: This clearly shows..........
By donjuancarlos on 12/7/2010 9:40:39 AM , Rating: 2
Agreed, spend thousands for marginally better gas mileage, why would anyone buy that?

The root problem is the IMA design--the engine is always running. Piston engines at their best are still woefully inefficient. The only way to get real fuel savings is to have a system that shuts the engine off.

RE: This clearly shows..........
By Nutzo on 12/7/2010 12:31:34 PM , Rating: 2
The root problem is the IMA design--the engine is always running.

I was wondering why Honda's milage was not as good as Toyota's.

Not shutting down the motor, combined with the extra weight of hauling around the batteries and electric motors, expains Honda's poor hybred mileage.

RE: This clearly shows..........
By Karma007 on 12/7/2010 4:02:36 PM , Rating: 2
I think Honda knows it can do better, which I think is why they're giving the CRT-Z an upgrade next year:

RE: This clearly shows..........
By goku on 12/8/2010 10:01:37 AM , Rating: 2
retrospooty, meet this post:
THANK YOU!! God I hate this fallacy these posters use. This assumption that they get better (or worse) than EPA estimates, but then turn around and compare then to the EPA estimate of the competing car. News flash if you drive well and get better than EPA on one car, it stands to reason the same would happen on the other.

Comment from the same article no less! Yet it's very accurate.. If you can get 38mpg out of a civic, I'm sure you could do the same percentage increase in fuel economy on the hybrids as well.. Also, while 38mpg sounds great, that's probably cruising on the highway. Since, according to the NHTSA, on average, people drive 55% of the time at city speeds, having good city fuel economy is more important than having that much better highway fuel economy. The numbers get really skewed in areas such as Los Angeles where gridlock is extremely common, to the point that most cars are just idling, wasting fuel while the decent hybrids aren't consuming any fuel at all. A hybrid could REALLY excel in the fuel economy department if traffic is crawling at a very slow but steady speed.

With this said, Honda has a long way to go before their hybrid vehicles become a good value because at this point, they offer neither fuel economy nor performance, making them appeal to noone, just like the article stated.

"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." -- Robert Heinlein

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