Honda Planning a Major Jump in Hybrid Sales in Japan in 2011

By dancurranjr On December 20th, 2010

Honda will put pedal to the metal in Japan next year when a new and bigger range of hybrid models will land on the market.

Joining the CR-Z and Fit Hybrid on the scene will be a hybridized version of the Freed, Honda’s quirky small domestic van. Honda will also introduce a stretched wagon version of the Fit hybrid for domestic consumption, according to sources. The front half of the body will be stock, but overall length will stretch by more than 2 feet.

The Fit hybrid wagon is expected out in March, while the Freed hybrid will arrive later, around fall 2011.

The redesigned Civic Hybrid, to be unveiled in January at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show and tipped to be the first Honda hybrid to get a lithium-ion battery pack, will be another 2011 debut, but Japan, in fact, might not get it.

Having announced the end of Civic sales in Japan and with that longer Fit hybrid wagon in the wings, Honda may feel that it doesn’t need the new Civic Hybrid in Japan anymore, not even as an iconic stand-alone model.

Honda will also have the Insight to fall back on, of course, and the good news there is that that to-date lackluster model is due for a major revamp next July.

Toyota will counter with a hybrid version of the new Vitz (Yaris) and Mazda is promising a face-lifted Mazda 2 with the automaker’s new Skyactiv G gas engine that can achieve hybrid-type economy without the weight and complexity of battery and motor.

Add it up and, although the technology is light and compact, Honda’s IMA hybrids have yet to truly catch on and/or frighten Toyota, the market leader. So will 2011 at last be the turning point for Honda?

Inside Line says: The new Honda hybrids could be big in Japan where the word “hybrid” is a major come-on, but in the U.S., given the inevitable price premium for the technology, such small gasoline-electric models could be a harder sell.


Toyota Brand Chief: Bring on More Prius Versions

By dancurranjr On April 14th, 2009

toyota_priusLove the Prius?

You may get more to love in the future.

The Toyota brand chief in the U.S., Bob Carter, says he thinks that gas-electric Prius will be the automaker’s best-known modelin the future, just the way that Camry is probably its best known model 2010priuspg-horizontal now. So coming out with Prius versions that are a little bigger, or a little smaller, to fit more family needs is something that he’s pushing for internally.

Carter also says:

  • Toyota is working on a hybrid version of the Yaris subcompact in Japan, but there has been no decision about whether it should go on sale.
  • The automaker will have a hybrid version of every class of vehicles in the 2020s. Worldwide, it plans to introduce 10 new hybrids in the next two years
  • Toyota’s midsized SUV, the Highlander, is getting a four-cylinder engine option despite its heft. It is the new, gutsy but quiet 2.7-liter four that’s also going into the Venza crossover.
  • A diesel version of the Tundra full-size pickup truck was pushed back. Tundra sales have been badly whacked by the recession.

In more Prius news, USA TODAY’s James R. Healey reports:

Toyota says it’ll put 150 plug-in versions of the new Prius into the hands of commercial users — utility companies for example — for field testing later this year, before considering a plug-in for showroom sale. Toyota says it needs at least a year of fleet data, and at least another year to tweak for regular customers. So, no plug-in Prius for at least two years; probably longer. The ones going into fleet service later this year go drive up to 7 miles on battery only. Want more than that? You’d have to pony up big bucks for a heftier battery, and you’d spend longer recharging it.

Here’s what Jim had to say about the new, non-plug-in Prius in last Friday’s Test Drive. In a nutshell, “more posh, more power.”


Yaris-Based Hybrid is Toyota’s Cheap Shot at Insight

By dancurranjr On April 7th, 2009

toyota_yaris_hybridHybrid car shoppers should all thank Honda for shoving its $20,000 2010 Insight in Toyota’s face, because the world’s best-selling hybrid manufacturer has just switched to bargain mode.

Automotive News reported today that Toyota will sell a hybrid “low-priced spinoff” of its subcompact Yaris below the $19,800 base price of the Honda Insight, which made headlines months ago for planning to undercut the $22,000 base price of the Prius (it’s now $2,200 lower). The model won’t be ready until at least 2011.

Despite a third-generation Prius that boasts a combined 50 mile-per-gallon EPA rating, a more refined interior, and a sportier powertrain that now registers a pulse, Honda has seen record sales for its Insight, which from the side looks almost identical to the Toyota icon. In Japan, Honda has reported more than 21,000 orders, soaring past the company’s 5,000 monthly target since the car went on sale in early February, according to The Wall Street Journal. The Insight arrived at US dealers yesterday.

As gas prices dwindled since last summer’s high, many would-be hybrid buyers have swayed toward traditional, cheaper fuel-efficient cars instead, as witnessed by last year’s 10.3 percent drop in US hybrid sales. The current Prius – which had greedy dealers charging as much as $5,000 over sticker, Edmunds said – now has some genuine competition, including the $27,200 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid.


Toyota Yaris at