Honda’s New Insight Hybrid is Hot in Japan

By dancurranjr On February 27th, 2009

2010_honda_insight_hybridThe new Honda Insight hybrid, slated to go on sale in April in the U.S., is already big in Japan.

Reuters reported today that Honda has received almost triple the number of orders it expected for the car after it went on sale in its homeland on Feb 6.

“The response has been overwhelming,” Honda executive Hiroshi Kobayashi told reporters at a test-drive event in Tokyo. Demand has been such that the automaker intends to expand its production plans for the car, Kobayashi said, although he declined to specify by how much.

The Insight, he added,  is drawing interest from a broad range of vehicle owners, from mini-vehicles to sedans to minivans. There’s currently a 30-day wait to take delivery of a new Insight.

The strong response is occurring even as the Japanese auto market suffers through the same slump that is depressing auto sales around the globe. New vehicle sales were off 20% last month in Japan.

The Insight’s popularity could be due to its price — it starts at around 1.89 million yen (just under $20,000 at current exchange rates), almost 20% less than the rival Toyota Prius.

In Japan, Honda is also boasting fuel economy of around 61 miles per gallon for the Inisght. Based on U.S. mileage tests, the current-generation Prius gets 46 MPG in combined city/highway driving. The third-generation Prius, due in showrooms in the U.S. and Japan this spring, will get around 50 MPG combined, Toyota has said.

honda_insightYou may remember that the original Insight, a futuristic looking two-seat that hit these shores in December 1999 — actually beating the Prius to the U.S. market by more than six months. The Prius made up the lost ground, however, and became the purpose-built hybrid of choice for Americans. The original Insight was R.I.P. by 2006.

The new Insight is slated to go on sale in the U.S. in April. Officially unveiled at the Detroit auto show in January, it has been lampooned a bit for looking too much like, well, the Prius. But, as in Japan, it’s expected to cost less than the Toyota hybrid, which should be an important selling point in these economically challenged times.


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