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2010 Honda Insight  (Source: Motor Authority)

2010 Toyota Prius
The cheapest hybrid on the market is now the best selling, in Japan

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.

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They look alike for a reason
By tech329 on 5/11/2009 2:59:10 PM , Rating: 2
That reason is aerodynamics. The shape has everything to do with fuel economy. It's a sure bet their testing evolved a body style that is strikingly similar because that is the one which yields the best aerodynamics. These vehicles are about cost efficiency above all else, with safety and reliability running close behind.

RE: They look alike for a reason
By usbseawolf2000 on 5/11/09, Rating: -1
RE: They look alike for a reason
By donjuancarlos on 5/11/2009 5:56:27 PM , Rating: 5
Total Aerodynamic drag is Cd times Frontal Area.

So to have better Aerodynamics your combined Cd * Frontal Area has to be less.

The Insight-I had 0.25 * 1.9 = 0.475
Prius-II had 0.26 * 2.16 = 0.5616 ( ~18% worse than the Insight-I , even while the Cd is only ~4% worse. )

Therefore, when you take size into account, the total drag is not necessarily better, despite the coefficient.

RE: They look alike for a reason
By matt0401 on 5/11/2009 11:16:45 PM , Rating: 1
Excellent point! I consider myself knowledgeable concerning vehicle aerodynamics but I didn't know this... I assumed Cd was proportional to the total drag, I didn't realize it didn't take frontal area into account.

That must wreak havoc on fuel economy when it comes to large square-shaped transport trucks and buses. No wonder those get such poor mileage.

RE: They look alike for a reason
By Spuke on 5/12/2009 2:45:24 PM , Rating: 2
That must wreak havoc on fuel economy when it comes to large square-shaped transport trucks and buses.
They make up for some of that by using diesel engines. My "old" 04 Tundra got the exact same commute mileage as my present 06 F250 diesel. Despite the HUGE frontal area difference on my Ford.

By usbseawolf2000 on 5/12/2009 11:31:05 PM , Rating: 2
I was replying to the comment about the Insight's shape similar to the Prius for aerodynamic reasons. I was pointing out that it wasn't the case because the Cd did not change and actually got worse Cd than the Prius.

RE: They look alike for a reason
By kellehair on 5/12/2009 12:38:30 PM , Rating: 2
I'm no expert but from what I've read vehicle aerodynamics is still considered a black art. There's even a train of thought that smooth shapes are counterproductive. Smooth shapes don't disrupt the airflow and it ends up dragging over the majority of the car's surface.

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