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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 Some point to Honda's outdated inventory system, while others say that company simply has a stale vehicle portfolio.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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Doesn't fit
By Wererat on 12/7/2010 8:29:08 AM , Rating: 5
The problem for Honda is that both the CR-Z and Insight are bested by their own cheaper, roomier, and faster standard-combustion Fit.

I don't think the CR-Z and Insight are bad - I particularly like the CR-Z styling - but people love value, and anyone looking for good mileage and reasonable performance who walks in looking at Insight or CR-Z will end up with a Fit unless they simply *must* have a hybrid.

RE: Doesn't fit
By morgan12x on 12/7/10, Rating: 0
RE: Doesn't fit
By Gio6518 on 12/7/2010 12:28:29 PM , Rating: 2
And for where I live (West Texas), front wheel drive doesn't sell.

Absolutely true, I moved down south couldn't take the cold anymore. Up north you dont see many performance rear wheel drive vehicles, and down here you don't see many hybrids.

I had a Honda Civic hybrid, even though i was getting great gas mileage, I really hated driving that vehicle. I had it for a year and couldn't take it anymore. I much rather suffer a loss of MPG and enjoy my commute or travel.

RE: Doesn't fit
By Samus on 12/7/2010 4:18:28 PM , Rating: 2
Hybrid technology doesn't make sense if you do mostly highway driving. The only thing relevent about say, the Prius, at highway speed is the low drag coefficient...which happens to be identical to a 2010 Ford Fusion (i4/v6/hybrid)

However, an electric car makes a lot of sense in the south, which is why San Diego, CA is a primary launch site for the Nissan Leaf AND the Chevy Volt.

RE: Doesn't fit
By mcnabney on 12/7/2010 9:41:39 AM , Rating: 3
I've driven a Fit. It doesn't 'fit' any of those descriptions. The Fit is a very good subcompact, but 'roomier' and 'faster' are not good descriptors under any circumstances.

Honda's weak attempts failed because they did not appeal to hybrid shoppers because they didn't deliver 'hybrid' mileage. They tried to appeal to non-hybrid shoppers and standard combustion engines were just as good with better performance and price.

RE: Doesn't fit
By Flunk on 12/7/2010 9:46:16 AM , Rating: 2
Have you driven a CR-Z? The Fit actually IS a lot bigger. The CR-Z doesn't even have a back seat.

RE: Doesn't fit
By BailoutBenny on 12/7/2010 11:56:37 AM , Rating: 4
I own a Fit, it is way better than the CR-Z.

The Fit does 0-60 in 8.3 seconds. That is faster than the CR-Z at over 9.

The Fit has massive cargo space, 57.3 cu.ft. The CR-Z has 25.1 cu.ft.

The Fit is 4 thousand dollars cheaper for the base model.

Mileage is not bad. EPA estimates on the Fit are lower, but real world mileage reports for the Fit are hovering around 36-40mpg. I myself am sitting at 37.2 average mpg according to the gauge on my dashboard.

Also, besides being faster, roomier and cheaper than the CR-V, I'd say it handles the same or better. The Fit is much sportier than the CR-Z, it just doesn't look it.

Back in the early 90's, Honda had the vtec-e motor that had real world mileage of between 50-60mpg. It was a 1.5l 95hp engine. If Honda could use the motor today with an electric hybrid powertrain, it would probably get close to 80mpg done right, if not more. Current emissions standards would probably never let that motor see the light of day in a current implementation, however. Emissions standards are just one of the ways good, reliable technology is quashed to keep competition and innovation to a minimum and directed in favor of a few government chosen industries.

RE: Doesn't fit
By Solandri on 12/7/2010 1:52:53 PM , Rating: 4
Mileage is not bad. EPA estimates on the Fit are lower, but real world mileage reports for the Fit are hovering around 36-40mpg. I myself am sitting at 37.2 average mpg according to the gauge on my dashboard.

One more time: EPA estimated MPG are not an estimate of the MPG you will get when driving a car. It's an estimate of the mileage of all cars driven the same way over the same course, thus letting you compare the mileage of any two different cars.

RE: Doesn't fit
By BailoutBenny on 12/7/2010 3:57:37 PM , Rating: 2
I know what the estimates are supposed to suggest. The model used for obtaining the estimates is flawed and also doesn't take into account manufacturer under-reporting.

The EPA also has a section where people report their real world mileage, I'd suggest you look there for an accurate portrayal of the mileage you can obtain with a chosen vehicle. Reported real world mileage for the Fit is 36-40MPG.

RE: Doesn't fit
By bah12 on 12/7/2010 4:04:30 PM , Rating: 3

God I hate this fallacy these posters use. This assumption that they get better (or worse) than EPA estimates, but then turn around and compare then to the EPA estimate of the competing car. News flash if you drive well and get better than EPA on one car, it stands to reason the same would happen on the other.

RE: Doesn't fit
By kattanna on 12/7/2010 10:52:00 AM , Rating: 2
i also wonder how much brand recognition has to do with poor sales.

i mean, when one thinks hybrid.. one usually thinks prius

RE: Doesn't fit
By sintaxera on 12/7/2010 12:29:08 PM , Rating: 2
The fact that they took out the back seats on the American CR-Z doesn't help matters either. I bet if dealerships bought the parts from a European supplier and put them back in they would likely sell more. At least then you would have somewhere to put the rugrats.

RE: Doesn't fit
By Reclaimer77 on 12/7/2010 8:25:03 PM , Rating: 3
What the hell has happened to Honda?

Gone are the Prelude and CR-X. The Civic Si is still around, sure, but what happened to the Integra? And my god, what have they done to the Accord!?

Honda has become very boring. Honda used to be on the forefront of delivering practical, economical, yet inspiring cars with personality and style. Now they are the pusher of SUV's, minivans, trucks (seriously wtf, Honda trucks) and a smattering of uninspired Corolla look-a-likes and ugly hybrids. The FIT looks like something a fifth grader designed with crayons and would have never passed for a Honda in the 80's or 90's. Standards appear to have given way, sharply.

RE: Doesn't fit
By YashBudini on 12/7/2010 9:19:41 PM , Rating: 2
I had one of the original Integra's, what a great car.

The 2003 Accord Coupe looked really good. At least new stuff still not Kia fugly.

Me too-ism guarantees boredom.

"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke

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