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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 Some point to Honda's outdated inventory system, while others say that company simply has a stale vehicle portfolio.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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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.

"If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." -- Scientology founder L. Ron. Hubbard

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