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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 Some point to Honda's outdated inventory system, while others say that company simply has a stale vehicle portfolio.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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Stupid big 3 in the US
By Ahnilated on 12/7/2010 11:50:34 AM , Rating: 2
I think they should bring the really economic diesels over from the UK that are getting MUCH better mileage then the hybrids here. The VW TDI clean diesel is a step in the right direction but not far enough. There are a lot of people in the US that would buy a good high mileage car and don't care to have a car with 500 hp just to drive to work. The BS that the big 3 car manufacturers are pushing that no one wants Diesel or lower horsepower is a joke.

RE: Stupid big 3 in the US
By MrFord on 12/7/2010 12:44:22 PM , Rating: 2
Name me one manufacturer, beside the Germans, that offers diesel cars in the US. Both Honda and Mazda were talking about offering some models with diesel, but they didn't, citing poor market.

And even for VW/BMW/Mercedes, I'd be very curious to see how many diesels they manage to sell. They are cheaper to operate, but when you factor acquisition and maintenance costs (pump and injectors on a diesel ain't cheap), you need to drive a lot to break even. Like with hybrids.

Its like station wagons, everybody is claiming that they would buy one if it was offered, and complain that the manufacturers don't have them in their lineup. But you can count one one hand the numbers or Jetta station. The Legacy station is somewhat popular, mainly because it's as big as most SUVs. The last big sellers were the like of Taurus and Focus stations, and even they didn't sell all that well.

RE: Stupid big 3 in the US
By 91TTZ on 12/7/2010 3:01:27 PM , Rating: 4
1. The cars from the UK that everybody thinks get so much better gas mileage usually don't really get much better gas mileage. They're getting mislead by the imperial gallon.

2. The big 3 doesn't offer cars that have lower horsepower? All of them have 500 hp? You can get plenty of compact cars from them with good fuel economy.

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