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Dedicated Honda hybrid to imitate Prius

Electric sports: CR-Z concept is "where Honda is going".

Honda admits next year's dedicated hybrid will be a backflip on its Civic strategy

24 Jun 2008

HONDA is moving to introduce a stand-alone hybrid of sub-Civic size next year.

The dedicated hybrid platform is a reversal of the philosophy of using a shared or existing platform as it has now with the Civic Hybrid, and imitates the example set by Toyota with the Prius.

When asked if this was a complete turn around in Honda’s philosophy, given that it has tried to integrate its hybrid models into its existing Civic range, Honda Australia senior director Lindsay Smalley said “I think that’s a fair comment”.

Mr Smalley says that the new hybrid is “a clear statement of direction” and an announcement regarding the new model will be made before the end of the year.

In reference to the Honda CR-Z hybrid shown last year at the Tokyo motor show, Mr Smalley said “That’s a pretty clear signal to the market - that’s where Honda is going” Honda was actually the first company with a hybrid car in Australia when in March 2001 it imported the two-seater Honda Insight.

The Insight was hardly a success for Honda, with 45 cars sold between its release until one last new-vehicle registered in 2003. Part of the problem was that Honda hit the market too early with a model that was too expensive, too small and that was mediocre in performance and road manners.

Honda decided to try a different tack with its next-generation hybrid, the Civic Hybrid introduced in current form in February 2006.

While the Civic has been a marked improvement in ride, handling and performance (not to mention carrying capacity) over the Insight, it has failed to capture the market’s imagination in the way the Toyota Prius has.

Part of the problem is the lack of information in the marketplace, but Lindsay Smalley says that he has not given more publicity to the Civic Hybrid “because we have limited supply and limited money”.

The Civic Hybrid sells around 100 units a month and is constrained by supply. Smalley says he believes that Civic Hybrid would not sell a great deal more than it does now, but is more upbeat about the new hybrid, saying that the upcoming announcement was “exciting” for Honda.

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