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Insight booms in Japan

Out of sight: Honda Insight's sales success in Japan may delay its Australian introduction.

Honda’s new Insight becomes the first hybrid to top Japan’s new-car sales charts

12 May 2009

THE success of Honda’s all-new Insight hybrid in Japan, where it found a staggering 10,481 homes last month to become the nation’s top-selling new car bar none in April, is likely to further delay the second-generation petrol-electric model’s introduction in Australia.

Originally due on sale here by the end of this year – within six months of Toyota’s third-generation Prius hybrid, which goes on sale in Australia in July – the Insight’s success overseas means it is now unlikely to arrive here before the second half of 2010.

“The Insight is built in one factory only for the world and, given its phenomenal success, we may have to wait a little longer,” Honda Australian spokesman Mark Higgins told GoAuto.

“Although it’s too early to gauge the Insight’s success in the US or Europe, given the success of the car certainly in Japan I think it’s safe to say it will now arrive here in the second half of next year,” he said.

While the Jazz-based five-door Insight hatchback was the 10th best selling new car in Japan in February with 4906 sales and only the 21st most popular new car there in March with 4088 sales, in April it was the first hybrid model to top Japan’s new-vehicle sales chart (excluding 660cc mini-cars).

15 center image The Insight displaced Honda’s Fit (known here as the Jazz) as the nation’s top-seller in April, which would have been the Fit’s fifth consecutive month as Japan’s most popular vehicle, making it the first time Honda models have filled the top two sales positions.

Despite being on sale in the UK for less than a month, the Insight out-sold the Prius, 229 sales to 198, and has attracted a waiting list in Japan, Europe and the US. Honda UK sold 79 Civic Hybrids in the same three-week period, and expects to sell about 7000 Insights this year, from a global production run of about 200,000 examples.

The Insight’s popularity in Britain is partly a result of the UK government's 15 per cent annual road tax reduction for hybrid vehicles, as well as the fact that the Insight undercuts the price of the Civic Hybrid, which is priced at $35,990 in Australia.

Whether the Insight carries a sub-$30,000 pricetag when it eventually goes on sale here depends on exchange rates at the time, said Mr Higgins.

The second-generation Insight should match the Civic Hybrid’s official 4.6L/100km fuel consumption figure in Australia, but falls short of the MkIII Prius’ Mini Cooper D-matching economy figure of 3.9L/100km.

It employs a smaller, lighter and more powerful version of the Civic Hybrid’s electric motor-assisted 1.3-litre four-cylinder powertrain, but is encased in a lighter-weight and slipperier body that has an aerodynamic drag co-efficient of 0.28Cd. The Insight’s battery is 31 per cent smaller and 35 per cent lighter than the Civic Hybrid’s.

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