Last week we brought you news that
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
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
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 Some point to Honda's outdated inventory system, while others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
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.
quote: The root problem is the IMA design--the engine is always running.