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Honda axes slow-selling Insight

End of the road: The petrol-electric Honda Insight never matched Toyota Prius sales in the US, Europe or Australia.

Slow-selling Honda Insight hybrid gets the axe as it fails to meet Prius challenge

Honda logo27 Feb 2014

By MIKE COSTELLO

HONDA has axed the slow-selling second-generation Insight hybrid hatch from its Japanese production roster, with the final cars to roll off the line in Suzuka tomorrow.

The company’s decision comes in response to sub-par sales figures that saw its petrol-electric figure-head lag way behind its arch-rival Toyota Prius in the key markets of Japan, Europe and the US.

Bloomberg cites production figures of 3.19 million units for the regular Prius since 1999, compared to a cumulative figure of 280,629 Insights over a similar period, the vast majority at home in Japan.

On the back of its relative success, Toyota has since added the Prius C light-hatch and Prius V people-mover to the ‘family’, spinning the Prius nameplate off as a dedicated sub-brand.

It is unclear if Honda plans to make a third-generation Insight, or simply continue with more conventional hybrid versions of its mainstream offerings such as the Civic. As GoAuto reported this month, a hybrid Odyssey is under consideration.

Despite launching with sharper pricing than the more fuel-efficient Prius, the Insight never caught on in Australia. Even a recent price cut to $26,990 failed to ignite sales.

Honda sold just 175 units for all of 2013, and 223 units in 2012. In comparison, Toyota sold 555 Prius models last year and 861 in 2012. The Insight’ s biggest-selling month was October 2011, when Honda sold 128 units. It has been downhill since.

Honda Australia acting public relations manager Naomi Rebeschini said today the company had “limited stock” left in its dealer network.

The second-generation Insight premiered at the Detroit motor show, with an aerodynamic ‘tear-drop’ design that owed as much to the Prius as it did to the oddball, far less mainstream, first-generation Insight.

While the Insight undercut the Prius on price (in Australia at least), it could not match its efficiency, with a combined local fuel consumption figure of 4.5L/100km (compared with 3.9L/100km for Prius) and CO2 emissions of 109g/km (versus 89g/km for Prius).

It employed a smaller, lighter and more powerful version of the Civic Hybrid’s electric motor-assisted SOHC i-VTEC 1.3-litre four-cylinder powertrain matched to a small electric motor and nickel-hydride battery.

All this was packed in a lighter body with a low aerodynamic drag co-efficient of 0.28Cd – hence the unusual styling.

The Insight was not the only hybrid Honda to sell in low numbers locally. The CR-Z sports hatch, known as the only hybrid car with a manual gearbox, trickles out of showrooms in miniscule numbers. Honda only sold three units in January this year.

Speaking with GoAuto earlier this month, Honda Australia director Stephen Collins urged Australia’s state and federal governments to throw more support and incentives behind green vehicles (see separate story linked below).

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