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2010 Honda Insight

Honda CR-Z

2010 Toyota Prius
Honda still can't find the magic recipe to beat the Prius

When it comes to hybrid vehicles, it appears that Honda just can't catch a break. Its first generation Insight hybrid was the first such vehicle to hit American soil a decade ago, however, the vehicle was a sales failure. Honda went on to develop a Civic Hybrid which hasn't exactly been a Prius competitor in terms of sales and the company's Accord Hybrid, like the Insight before it, failed in the marketplace.

Honda looked to go after Toyota's Prius again with a larger, second generation Insight. However, Honda again ran into a brick wall. Honda managed to undercut the Prius by a few thousand dollars, but also did so with a much smaller vehicle that was not as fast, not as tech-laden, and not nearly as fuel efficient as the third-generation Prius. When it comes to actual vehicle sales, the numbers don't lie. Honda sold roughly 20,500 Insights during 2009 in the U.S. -- Toyota, on the other hand, sold nearly 140,000 Prius hybrids.

"Are we happy with how sales are going? No, we're not happy," said American Honda executive VP John Mendel.

Faced with the prospect of another dud in the hybrid marketplace, Honda chief Takanobu Ito is calling on his engineers to develop a vehicle that will "Out Prius" the Prius according to Automotive News. Ito wants a hybrid that will be able to exceed the stellar fuel economy ratings of Toyota's crown jewel. Toyota's Prius is rated at 50 mpg (city/highway combined) while the smaller Insight is rated at just 41 mpg (city/highway combined).

"We want to develop and expand our hybrids," said Ito earlier this month in Detroit. "We made some major sacrifices to shift people and resources to do that."

While Honda looks like it will have its hands full developing a vehicle to topple the Prius, it has also just launched a new "sporty" hybrid aimed at enthusiasts. The CR-Z can be had with a manual transmission, but fuel economy junkies should be warned -- choosing to the manual will result in a serious hit to city fuel economy. A CR-Z equipped with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) will be rated at 36/38 mpg (city/highway). Opting for the six-speed manual transmission, however, will cut those numbers to 31/37 mpg.

For comparison, a Mini Cooper (six-speed manual) gets 28/37 mpg without the need for hybrid components.



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RE: How about...
By Levish on 1/25/2010 9:27:33 AM , Rating: 5
Honda is a business.

You can bet if enough people bought those cars (or those types of cars) for them to be even somewhat profitable, they'd still be produced.


RE: How about...
By steven975 on 1/25/2010 9:51:36 AM , Rating: 3
no matter how good those cars are/were, you're right.

I have a S2000 myself, but realize they just didn't sell well past 2003 or so. Of course, most of that is due to Honda's 10-14 year product cycle on sports cars.

The RSX was great, but didn't stand up well compared to more powerful cars with similar or lower prices. The latest Prelude was, IMO, just too heavy to have an I4 at the price they were asking.


RE: How about...
By vapore0n on 1/25/2010 10:00:18 AM , Rating: 2
This seems to hold truth. The problem is that Honda is trying to cash on the same cow Toyota has for a while, the hybrid cow. So they dropped the whole fun/reliable/innovation ball and now are playing with the hybrid ball, and not too god at it either.


RE: How about...
By The0ne on 1/25/2010 10:23:48 AM , Rating: 2
Yep, shame they are doing it but they are a business. How they are going to "catch" up to Prius is unsure but it entails "convincing" consumers that going green or maybe even as far as "greener" is a better choice. Their Leaf was getting attention but even here in San Diego where the test was suppose to begin it's all quiet. The recent rain might have washed and blown them away like....leafs :)

IMO, chasing after a known market is rather risky. I would rather much focus on potential markets or stable markets. What happens when the market fails? You fail completely, as I've seen many companies go through. And what happens when someone else shift directions and/or comes out with something new? You're left in the dust because you've concentrated most if not all of your resources into getting a piece of the competitors 1/4 pie. Just my opinion base on failed failed companies in the past.


RE: How about...
By dubldwn on 1/25/2010 12:20:20 PM , Rating: 5
The Leaf is a Nissan. Just FYI.


RE: How about...
By ZHENDHIDE4 on 1/28/2010 8:43:52 PM , Rating: 1
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RE: How about...
By Keeir on 1/25/2010 1:48:30 PM , Rating: 2
It seems during the earlier 2000s, both Honda and Toyota both made the choice to transition away from sports cars as thier Halo products to "Hybrids".

This probably makes sense in Japan. And to a certain extent it seems to have worked for Toyota in the US.

Cars such as the Acura RSX (which sold great btw) or the Toyota MR2 can be very successful for the brand without large sales.

However, it was felt that Hybrids would make a better Halo product and although the sports cars could have continued to make healthy sales and profits (And halo effect most likely), RD money was no longer spent on them (for the US market) and thus sales went away.


RE: How about...
By CHAOQIANG on 1/25/10, Rating: -1
"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke














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