UK: Charge of the hybrids

Posted by JRC
7 Apr 2009
UK: Charge of the hybrids
In 1999, Honda only sold 340 of the original Insight hybrids. Honda isn't giving up however. With the new Insight, Honda plans to sell between 7,000 - 8,000 a year. Steve Kirk, communications manager, likens the acceptance of hybrids to the gradual increase in awareness - then acceptance - of diesel-engined cars in the early 1990s.

John Kingston, the company's government affairs and environment manager, says the original Insight was a statement of intent. Now with new Insight which is followed by the CRZ sports car hybrid this time next year and the Jazz hybrid a year later, that intent is translated into action.

With Toyota launching a new version of the Prius this summer, acceptance and awareness of hybrids will grow which is expected to work in favour of both carmakers. Toyota has seen sales of current Prius, launched in 2003, grow steadily to 9,000 last year. Some 60 per cent of buyers opt for the high-spec Prius, costing more than 21,000, demonstrating that this niche market might not be as price sensitive as others and appears to contradict Honda's research which suggests that 40 per cent of potential buyers are put off by the price of the cars.

So, what of the Insight? First, it looks like a proper car and it drives in a serene, calm way that could become addictive, just like watching the green leaves on the dashboard that tell you how economically you are driving is bound to become a hybrid owners talking point.

Are those leaves just a gimmick? The jury is out at the moment but Honda's argument is that since 78 per cent of a car's CO2 output comes from driving (based on 100,000 km - six per cent of CO2 is produced during production and 16 per cent from raw materials, transportation and final disposal, says Honda) drivers need to be targeted.





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