March 21, 2009

Honda readies U.S. hybrid car rollout

Japan's Honda Motor Co. says it is set offer U.S. consumers the Insight, which it calls the world's first affordable hybrid vehicle.

The company said in Tokyo that the U.S. rollout of the Insight will start next week after Japanese consumers ordered 18,000 of the cars in their first three weeks of availability, The New York Times reported Saturday.

The Insight has been so popular in Japan it has pushed the another well-known hybrid vehicle, the Toyota Prius, off the list of Japan's top ten best-selling cars for February, the newspaper said.

One reason may be the price at $20,000, said Tsuguhito Tokita, a Honda dealer in Tokyo.

I have people asking about hybrids that I never had before, Tokita told the Times. With this price, it's easy to recommend to anyone.

If Honda can make sales inroads in the United States with the Insight, it could force hybrid market leader Toyota to bring down prices for the Prius. Japanese media have in fact reported that Toyota will introduce a cheaper hybrid model with a smaller engine in 2011, the Times said.