The hybrid price war between Honda and Toyota has been fierce, with both companies slashing prices on their 2010 flagship models. In the end Honda emerged the victor, boasting the cheaper price of $19,800 in the U.S. Now it has taken an early lead in sales as well, setting an unprecedented record in Japan.
The Honda Insight became Japan's top selling vehicle for the month of April. This marked the first time in Japan's automotive history a traditional hybrid has climbed to the top of the list.
The Honda Insight retails for 1.89 million yen ($19,000) in Japan. According to the Japan Automobile Dealers Association, approximately 10,481 Insights sold in April. Small hybrids with an engine size of up to 660 cubic centimeters (aka, minicars) have cracked the top of the sales list in Japan, but the Insight in the first traditional vehicle to do so.
A Honda spokesperson cheered the news, bragging, "The all-new Insight has been very well received by a wide range of customers due to its excellent environmental performance, easy-to-use packaging, light and comfortable driving and affordable pricing."
Toyota is set to release the 2010 Prius next week, with May offering the first taste of the vehicles' head-to-head sales figures. With Toyota aggressively pricing the established Prius, a larger vehicle, at only approximately $1,000 more than the Insight, it is expected to post strong sales as well.
While the sales of the Insight say less about the upcoming competition with the Prius, and more about the appeal of the Insight itself, they do also show that sales of hybrids are picking up again, despite a lag due to the poor economy. That's good news for Toyota and Honda, which make a lucrative $3,100 on each of the hybrids sold, according to recent reports.