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Honda sights mainstream with hybrid

Insight in sight: Honda hopes that the Insight hybrid will soon be a common sight on Australian roads.

Honda believes hybrids can hit critical mass with affordable Insight pricing

Honda logo18 Oct 2010

HONDA believes its all-new and second-generation Insight will help catapult the hybrid vehicle into the mainstream sales avenue for the first time.

The Japanese carmaker has forecast just 200 sales per month in Australia, but this figure can easily be at least quadrupled if there is sufficient demand for the hybrid newcomer.

Supporting the Insight will be the next-generation 2012 Civic Hybrid above it, as well as the Jazz Hybrid unveiled at the Paris motor show in late September, to be positioned in the low-to-mid $20,000 class when it becomes available within the next 18 months or so.

15 center imageFrom top: Honda Jazz Hybrid, Honda Civic Hybrid, Honda CR-Z.

Of less volume potential – but coming sooner than the last two and with arguably more hybrid desirability impact – will be the CRZ Hybrid sports coupe, which is due in the middle of 2011, priced from about $35,000 and hotly reminiscent of the much-loved Honda CRX coupe of the 1980s.

But with Insight pricing from $29,990 (plus on-road costs) announced at the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney this month, it is the Insight that has hit the headlines hard as the cheapest hybrid vehicle to be offered in this country.

It undercuts the Toyota Prius by around $10,000, although that car is significantly more economical and less-polluting than its Honda counterpart, and offers a different kind of hybrid system (as well as driving experience) to warrant the extra cost.

Nevertheless, with no affordable Civic hatch model other than the $40,000 Type R imported from the UK, Honda also has the non-hybrid big-hitters in the booming small car segment – Volkswagen Golf, Mazda3, Toyota Corolla and Subaru Impreza – firmly in its crosshairs with the Insight.

The $29,990 VTi model will be joined by the better-equipped $33,490 VTi-L.

“It maybe has potential (to be Honda’s bestseller), but not in the short-term,” Honda Australia managing director and CEO Satoshi Matsuzawa told GoAuto.

“The Australian market is not yet ready to boost hybrid technology, but we want to be there when it does… gradually, we think Australian hybrid sales will pick-up.

“The Jazz Hybrid… I want it to come pretty soon… but not next year.

“As soon as they become available, we want to introduce hybrid models to Australia. Our vision is to have hybrids available across our line-up, with 10 per cent of sales to be hybrid vehicles.

“The next Civic will of course also have hybrid again… with an evolution of the IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) system… and it will be here late next year.” Honda Australia senior director Lindsay Smalley said Honda has the capacity to satiate an unexpected spike in hybrid demand from Australia.

“We always like to start conservatively with production orders and things like that,” said Mr Smalley. “If the market accepts the car and its hybrid technology warmly, then obviously we will be able to get more cars. So we will just see how it goes.

“For me, it’s a great five-door hatch that happens to also be a hybrid – and so it’s not hybrid technology that goes all geeky.

“With hybrid take-up in Australia, the private consumer is still a little hesitant, so I think we need these types of cars for there to be an industry breakthrough. I am sure it will happen.

“In combination with CRZ, the Insight will redefine the hybrid market in Australia.”

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