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 Some point to Honda's outdated inventory system, while others say that company simply has a stale vehicle portfolio.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

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson

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